State Summaries



Table of Contents

Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | District of Columbia | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Puerto Rico | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming |




Alabama


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Guardian ad Litem Assistants Program

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Calhoun County has instituted a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Assistants Program. In early 2004, thirteen citizen volunteers were carefully screened and trained to be GAL assistants. The process included individual interviews, criminal background checks, and over twenty hours of pre-service training. The training sessions included the following topics: child abuse and neglect; communication and interviewing skills; cultural sensitivity; confidentiality; an overview of the Department of Human Resources, including how a case moves from intake through foster care; the consent decree entered in a federal court case, R.C. v. Walley; the Project Respect Mediation Process and the roles and responsibilities of foster parents; the roles and responsibilities of a foster care supervisor and foster care worker; and dependency statutes, procedures, and stakeholders, to include the entire dependency case process from the shelter care hearing to adoption.

A considerable delay in assigning cases to volunteers occurred because of problems obtaining clearance from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI) on criminal background checks due to issues such as the need for additional information and smudged fingerprints. The ABI gave final clearance in February 2005. Because of the delay in the clearance process, less than half of the volunteers decided to stay in the program.

Once ABI clearance was obtained, the remaining volunteers have been assigned to work with 17 children. Volunteers are responsible for visiting the children and the foster parents at least monthly. They do not visit the home of or work with the children's birth parents. Based on information gathered during visits with the child and foster parents, the GAL assistants provide each GAL with monthly reports addressing the interaction between the foster parents and the child; relationships between the child and other children in the foster home; various activities of the child, such as scouts and sports; the medical status and physical appearance of the child; the environment in the foster home, including safety and minimum standards; and educational issues, such as grades, special education programs, tutoring services, and relationships with teachers and friends. Four children have been reunified with their parents and 13 children have a goal of reunification with parents or placement with relatives.

The Alabama CIP Director intends to make several site visits to Calhoun County to monitor the GAL Assistants Program. In addition, the Assistants Program Coordinator is required to submit quarterly reports to the CIP Director. After another year of operation, the CIP staff will evaluate the Program's effectiveness and determine whether it should be expanded to other counties in the state.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Pilot Projects

Dependency Case Task Forces

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, 53 of Alabama's 67 juvenile or family court sites decided to establish dependency case task forces. The dependency case task forces consist of juvenile or family court judges, circuit or juvenile clerks, judicial assistants, court specialists, child welfare agency caseworkers and attorneys, GALs, juvenile probation officers/intake officers, and others who may work on dependency cases, such as CASAs. Many of these task forces have developed action plans to improve the processing of dependency cases in their juvenile or family courts.

At this time, the Alabama Court Improvement Project staff is assessing whether to continue this initiative because efforts by the CIP staff to get the dependency case task forces to meet more frequently have failed.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Implementation and Review Teams

Management Information System

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Alabama continues to focus on the improvement of its statewide management information system in the juvenile area. Improvements to the case management system have included implementation of the Packard performance measures. All data elements and business rules have been defined and are in accordance with the Packard measures. At the present time, the system improvements are being utilized in certain courts.

Specifications have been developed for a web-based application to track court processes. This automated system will also assist judges who wish to utilize a computer on the bench become more effective and productive. For example, judges can have access to documentation concerning what parties were present for each hearing in the dependency case process and who was notified of the next court hearing.

The Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts computer staff is working continuously with the CIP staff to improve the automated system so staff can monitor and track juvenile dependency cases more effectively. A goal is that the system may be used in the future to conduct 'mini-assessments' of the courts' handling of juvenile dependency cases, tracking timeliness of court hearings, timeliness and sufficiency of service of process or notice of court hearings to parties, presence of parties at hearings, appointment of counsel for different parties at hearings, and permanency outcomes for children.
Technology
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
Technology: Data Collection

Juvenile Code Revision

A Juvenile Code Revision Committee has been convened to consider a revision of the Alabama Juvenile Code, which includes dependency provisions. The Committee is composed of appellate and juvenile and family court judges, Family Court Division staff, and Alabama Court Improvement Project staff. Currently, the plan is to have a draft of the Juvenile Code revisions ready for review and comments by all the juvenile and family court judges at their July 2005 conference and ready for input by other departments and agencies dealing with children's issues by August 2005. The CIP staff envisions that this legislation will be introduced in the 2006 Legislative Session.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Reassessment

The Alabama reassessment has been the major focus of the Alabama Court Improvement Project staff over the past year and was completed in June 2005.

The CIP staff conducted the reassessment in 22 of the 23 counties visited in the original assessment. The staff used four basic methods of obtaining data: surveys, interviews, case file reviews, and court observations. Based on its reassessment, the CIP staff made the following conclusions:

  • Eighty percent of guardians ad litem stated that the dependency case process in their county had improved in the past five years. The majority of parents' attorneys and CASAs agreed with this statement.
  • Compliance with federal and state child welfare law requirements is improving.
  • Most of the juvenile and family court judges and referees have over seven years of experience handling these cases.
  • Dependency hearings and reviews are being held timely in some counties.
  • No (or few) continuance of hearings and reviews are evident.
  • Quality of the treatment of parties is good.
  • An automated information system is in place and can be used to track and monitor dependency cases.
  • Attorneys and advocates for parties and children are better trained.

In addition, the CIP staff noted the following areas needing improvement:

  • Completeness and depth of dependency hearings.
  • Better compliance with federal and state child welfare law requirements.
  • More timely hearings and other events in more counties.
  • Better tracking of notices of summonses issued to parties and other persons.
  • More training of attorneys and advocates, particularly concerning their duties.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Alabama participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in April 2002. One member of the Court Improvement Project staff was interviewed during the review.

The Alabama Court Improvement Project staff was involved with Program Improvement Plan (PIP) development, participating in focus groups to discuss various aspects of the CFSR and the PIP. Alabama has mirrored its Strategic Plan on those areas of court improvement, including but not limited to, timely permanency hearings and six month reviews, highlighted in the PIP for consistency. The Alabama Department of Human Resources staff periodically requests that Alabama Court Improvement Project staff attend meetings dealing with PIP implementation involving court issues. In addition, the Alabama Court Improvement Project staff is involved in the Title IV-E Eligibility PIP.

The Family and Children's Services Division of the Department of Human Resources is preparing for the second round of reviews scheduled for December 2006 by reviewing data measuring outcomes and systemic factors.
Child and Family Services Review




Alaska


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Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alaska continues its mediation program. It includes both preadjudication and termination of parental rights cases. Emphasis is placed on mediation in contested cases and early in the process. As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Alaska added additional mediation services and mediation training in termination of parental rights cases, including Family Group Conferencing, through an Adoption Opportunities Grant (AOG). This project worked together with the CIP-funded mediation program to offer mediation at any stage of the child protection process. Although the AOG grant has ended, the CIP is continuing to fund mediation at all stages of the court process. Since January 2000, the court system has provided 407 mediations and Family Group Conferences in over 20 locations. Agreements were reached on some or all of the issues in about 85 percent of the cases.

Alaska continues to supplement the program through various grants and funding streams. The CIP is actively recruiting and training new mediators to meet demand.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Case Management System

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Alaska is developing a new statewide case management system. The system has been installed in the major court locations of Anchorage, Palmer, and Fairbanks (which account for approximately 60 percent of statewide child protection filings). The child protection module is operational.

Although the Packard performance measures were not formally adopted, data elements were defined specific to the Alaska system. The data fields included in the module ensure that the court system can track, in individual cases and using aggregated management reports, the timeliness of proceedings, whether hearings were completed, whether continuances were given, and if so, the reasons for the continuances. In addition, the module will allow the judge and court system to track outcomes of hearings, e.g., was probable cause found, was a disposition order entered. The goal is for all courts to eventually use the new system.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Transfer of Cases from State to Tribal Courts

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Alaska Tribal Courts can request transfer of jurisdiction of state court child neglect cases to tribal court for cases that involve tribal children. Previously, state case law did not recognize Alaska tribal courts' jurisdiction over such cases. The CINA Court Rules Committee drafted a CINA rule that sets out the procedures for transferring cases from state to tribal courts. The rule [AK-04-01] was adopted by the Alaska Supreme Court during 2004.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Training and Education Initiatives

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIP has identified judicial training and education as a priority. The Court Improvement Committee recently recommended to the Judicial Education Committee a series of "mini-updates" for judges on child protection topics, e.g., the effects of trauma on children's brain development. The mini-updates will serve to educate judges on scientific and legal advances since the last training and to introduce new judges to the topics.

The Alaska CIP is drafting a benchbook. The finished benchbook, likely to be available by the end of 2005, would also be offered to attorneys, GALs, and social workers.

In addition, the CIP is updating its checklists to account for state law revisions. The CIP also reformatted existing checklists to make them easier to use and to better integrate the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act [AK-05-01]. The CIP is drafting new checklists for guardianship hearings, paternity determinations, and voluntary relinquishment.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
Training and Education
Training and Education: Judicial Training

Reassessment

The University of Alaska's Justice Center is assisting the CIP with the design, data collection, and analysis for Alaska's reassessment. The CIP's Evaluation Subcommittee is working with the Justice Center on this effort. The CIP has also received assistance from the American Bar Association's National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues with issues regarding the reassessment. The CIP expects to complete the reassessment no later than September 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Alaska received the final Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) report in September 2002. One finding implicating court practice was the need to provide judges with more information on the role of substance abuse, addiction, and recovery in child welfare cases. The CIP offered training in this area.

The CINA Court Improvement Committee is working closely with the state's child welfare agency to respond to other issues identified in the CFSR report, i.e., permanency hearings and termination trials, through the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The CIP agreed to recommend that the state Supreme Court adopt a change to a CINA rule of court to require a finding for delay in the permanency hearing, to find a way to track the timeliness of permanency hearings, to include a reminder to judges in the checklists to inquire early about paternity and relative placements, and send a letter to judges encouraging them to prioritize scheduling of permanency hearings. The CIP expects that the rule will be presented to the Alaska Supreme Court during the summer of 2005.
Child and Family Services Review




Arizona


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Arizona Court Improvement Program Implementation Plan - Phase III

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Arizona reassessed four of the five counties originally studied in 1996. The fifth county's population was so small that it was deemed statistically insignificant to the study. The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) conducted the reassessment. The results were analyzed in The Arizona Court Improvement Project: Five Years Later/Final Report [AZ-02-01; AZ-02-02] and discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2002. The Arizona Court Improvement Program Advisory Workgroup met in April 2002 to discuss the report's recommendations and develop a strategic plan for the next several years. At the meeting, the Workgroup developed the Arizona Court Improvement Program Implementation Plan - Phase III. The Phase III Plan contains specific objectives and detailed plans for implementation, which were described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports.

Implementation of the Phase III Plan was temporarily delayed due to the Special Legislative Session called by the Governor in October 2003 to address child protection issues, which was detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. The Court Improvement Program, with the assistance of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) legal services, developed new Juvenile Rules to implement the resulting legislation. The Rules became final in June 2004. During this process, the Court Improvement Program and a presiding juvenile judge led a subcommittee of the Committee on Juvenile Courts in revising the juvenile benchbook. The revisions have been completed and approved, and the benchbook in CD-ROM form was published in December 2004. A print version was disseminated to all juvenile judges in February 2005.

Over the past year, implementation of Phase III has continued. Activities include the following:

  • The Court Improvement Program provided a laptop to Yavapai County for facilitation and mediation of dependency cases. Counties are provided with hardware on an "as needed" basis, provided there are funds to purchase or lease the equipment.

  • The appeals subcommittee is investigating the processing of appeals and is rewriting the rules for dependency and termination of parental rights appeals. There has been a significant increase in the length of time for appeals in termination of parental rights cases, from six months to more than 18 months. This increase is attributable to recent legislation allowing for jury trials in termination cases.

  • The Court Improvement Program is providing attorney training to comply with the CAPTA requirement that all GALs be trained prior to taking a dependency case.

  • The Court Improvement Program is planning to publish its second dependency databook in May 2005. Juvenile court timelines, Foster Care Review Board data, and Court Appointed Special Advocate data will be contained in the databook.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules
Technology
Technology: Equipment
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

Operational Reviews

Over the past several years, and as reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Arizona developed an operational review system for court hearings. Through this system, a team of individuals from the Administrative Office of the Courts staff traveled to various juvenile courts and reviewed compliance with timelines, rules, and statutes. The review team provided immediate feedback to the court regarding its performance and offered technical assistance to help with any compliance issues.

Arizona completed the first round of reviews in the spring of 2003. As the result of input received from the courts and the experiences of the team, modifications to the original reporting style were made. In April 2004, Arizona started a second round of operational reviews in its 15 counties. Greenlee County's review has been completed. Yavapai County's exit interview took place in February 2005. Data in Pima County has been gathered and a report is being drafted. The review in Santa Cruz County started in January 2005. There has been a delay in the overall completion schedule due to a personnel vacancy in the summer of 2004. As a result of this continuing vacancy, it is likely the timetable will be extended through the end of 2006.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Implementation and Review Teams
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Standardized Templates

The Arizona Court Improvement Program developed statewide, standardized templates for each hearing. These templates can be found at www.supreme.state.az.us/dcsd/improve/dep_hearing.htm. The Arizona Court Improvement Program trained counties on their use and, where necessary, minor changes were made to assist the counties in customizing the templates. For example, paper template training was provided to three rural counties where dependencies are a small percentage of the overall caseload. Other counties have modified the forms to match the flow of their dependency cases without skipping around in screens.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders
Training and Education
Training and Education: Other Training

Juvenile On Line Tracking System (JOLTS)

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Program has been involved in an ongoing effort to develop a dependency database for statewide use by juvenile courts. The dependency Juvenile On Line Tracking System (JOLTS) was implemented statewide in 1999. The implementation of the system was successful and accurate quantitative data is being collected. It was adapted to a WINDOWS format and allows for template generation. During the summer of 2004, some new features were added in the dependency area, including the following: a link between the initial dependency petition and the severance petition, tracking of jury trial information, and better tracking of findings on the parents regarding each child.

The Court Improvement Program, in conjunction with the JOLTS staff, is in the process of developing performance reporting based on the Packard performance measures. Several of the measures are already being addressed in JOLTS. Most of the data elements needed to address these measures already exist within the statewide data tracking system.

Although JOLTS is a statewide system, there are currently three different versions running within the state: one in Maricopa County (Phoenix area); one in Pima County (Tucson area); and one in the remaining 13 counties. All of these tracking systems share core elements that allow for the regular extraction of and reporting on statewide data. There are frequent meetings between the users of these systems, with a "core" area of tables and programs.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Dually Involved Youth

As the result of findings reported in The Arizona Court Improvement Project: Five Years Later/Final Report [AZ-02-01; AZ-02-02] suggesting a high rate of prior delinquency and/or status offense histories among dependent youth, the Court Improvement Program contracted with the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) to review the issue of dually involved (dependent/delinquent) youth. An initial review, which was discussed in detail in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, was to determine whether a full study of the issue should be conducted. Based on its preliminary assessment, the NCJJ recommended that the Arizona Court Improvement Program conduct a full study of the issue.

The NCJJ conducted a detailed study, analyzing JOLTS data, reviewing case files, and conducting interviews. In November 2004, the NCJJ issued its final report, Arizona Dual Jurisdiction Study: Final Report [AZ-04-01], which can be found at www.supreme.state.az.us/dcsd/docs/azdual_juri.pdf. As a result of this review, the NCJJ made numerous findings, some of which are detailed below:

  • Youth with histories of dependency court involvement are twice as likely to recidivate if referred on a delinquency offense as juveniles with no history of dependency court involvement.

  • Dependent children over the age of eight are likely to be, or become, involved with the court on delinquency matters. This likelihood increases substantially for children 14 years of age or older.

  • Dual jurisdiction children comprise an increasingly larger portion of a court's delinquency caseload.

  • In Arizona's largest two counties, there are hundreds of juveniles who are both dependent and on probation supervision.

  • For most dual jurisdiction youth, the delinquency petition was filed prior to the dependency petition.

  • The vast majority of dual jurisdiction families displayed a range of program attributes, including parental substance abuse, domestic violence, and housing/financial problems.

  • For juveniles, the most frequently documented issue was substance abuse. Other problems include severe emotional/mental health problems, sexual abuse, and a wide range of educational problems.

  • Very few dual jurisdiction youth were relatively stable regarding their living arrangements.

  • Very few hearings held by the court in dual jurisdiction cases were consolidated hearings in which both delinquency and dependency matters were addressed.

The NCJJ issued 25 recommendations. Some of these recommendations include the following:
  • Revise intake assessment/screening procedures for dual jurisdiction cases.

  • Explore ways to keep the same attorneys assigned in dependency and delinquency matters, and provide special training for attorneys handling these cases.

  • Establish or modify diversion programs for dual jurisdiction youth.

  • Examine the feasibility of combining delinquency and dependency hearings.

  • Carefully assess programs that report positive effects on dual jurisdiction youth and expand capacity where appropriate.

  • Efforts should be expanded to improve access to and the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment programs.

  • Provide special training for group home personnel on handling dual jurisdiction youth.

  • Conduct regular interagency case reviews of dual jurisdiction cases.

  • Address challenges associated with dependent youth who have been committed to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General
New/Innovative Projects

Child and Family Services Review

Arizona participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2001. The Court Improvement Program provided written materials and/or legal personnel to assist with the onsite assessment, as well as participated in interviews.

The Arizona Department of Economic Security submitted a Program Improvement Plan (PIP). Although the CFSR team found court-related issues to be "in substantial compliance," the Court Improvement Program is assisting the agency in attaining its goals in other areas where deficits were found. The CFSR Coordinator is a member of the Court Improvement Advisory Workgroup. The Coordinator's addition to the Workgroup keeps it focused on attaining the PIP requirements. When there are any issues the CFSR Coordinator believes would benefit from the courts' assistance, the Workgroup discusses them to determine how the issues can be resolved.
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

Dependency filings have increased significantly since 1999 with no additional funding to handle the cases. At this time, the judiciary is requesting an additional $300,000 from the legislature to distribute to the counties for handling dependency cases.
Funding Issues




Arkansas


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AAL Standards of Representation

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Arkansas completed standards of representation for attorneys ad litem (AALs). These standards set forth training requirements and maximum caseloads. Court-appointed attorneys must have at least 10 hours of initial training specific to dependency-neglect issues and four hours per year thereafter.

The Attorney Ad Litem Coordinator developed an Attorney Performance Survey [AR-04-01] that is distributed to the judges and other attorneys with whom the attorney practices, caseworkers, and CASAs involved in the case. In addition, each attorney completes a self survey to measure their compliance with the AAL standards of representation. The Attorney Ad Litem Coordinator developed performance measures and statewide averages for attorneys based on the standards of representation [AR-04-02]. Attorneys who fall below the standard receive site visits which include court observations and case file reviews, and interviews are conducted with judges, caseworkers, and attorneys. Instruments have been developed for the site visits [AR-04-03] and experienced and managing attorneys assist in this process. Failure to comply with the standards and show improvement can and has resulted in the failure to have a contract renewed. Additional training and technical assistance is being planned to address additional improvement.

In addition, the Attorney Ad Litem Coordinator is establishing a brief back to assist the AALs in their research for appeals. The Coordinator is always exploring other ways to assist AALs with appeals, including but not limited to a research assistant or contractor to help with appeals.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

Indigent Parent Counsel Program

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Dependency-Neglect Indigent Parent Counsel Program continues to expand. The Court Improvement Project continues to provide funds for two veteran parent attorneys to provide training and technical assistance to the attorneys in this program.

During 2004, the Arkansas Supreme Court sought and received $100,000 from the state legislature to pay for parent counsel in appeals for FY 2006.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

Dependency-Neglect Mediation Program

The Court Improvement Project (CIP) and the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock developed a statewide dependency-neglect mediation program that began in January 2004. The Director of Clinical Programs at the Bowen School of Law oversees this program, which provides law students with practical experience in dependency-neglect mediation to help children achieve permanency and safety in a timely and effective manner.

The dependency-neglect mediation program expanded to eight Judicial Districts across the state, with over 50 mediations conducted in dependency-neglect proceedings on issues ranging from case plans, visitation agreements, permanency plans, ICPC placement options, and post-termination issues.

Due to an increase of demand in the northwest part of the state, the Bowen School of Law and the CIP conducted training for mediators in northwest Arkansas in April 2005.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Legislation

The CIP sponsored two bills which passed during the most recent session. The first bill, Act 1191, addresses jurisdiction of the court over children in foster care and contains the following major provisions:

  • A juvenile may request the court to continue jurisdiction up to the age of 21 in a dependency-neglect or dependent case if the juvenile was adjudicated prior to the age of 18 and was in foster care. The court shall retain jurisdiction as long as the juvenile has a viable plan to remain in treatment or instruction.
  • Dependency-neglect or dependent juveniles who were in foster care at 18 and opted out of the courts jurisdiction can contact their attorney ad litem and have the attorney petition the court to return to the courts jurisdiction up to the age of 21 to benefit from federally funded independent living services.
  • A juvenile may request the court to continue jurisdiction up to the age of 21 in a Family In Need of Services (FINS) case if the juvenile was adjudicated prior to the age of 18 and was in foster care before the age of 18. The court shall retain jurisdiction as long as the juvenile has a viable plan to remain in treatment or instruction.

The second bill, Act 1255, addresses the continuity of educational services for foster children. The major provisions of this legislation include the following:

  • Children shall be entitled to the same opportunities to meet academic achievement standards to which all children are held; be assisted so they are able to remain in their schools; be placed in the least restrictive educational placement; be provided with the same access to academic resources, services, and extracurricular activities available to all students; and have educational decisions made based on the best interest.
  • The individuals involved in the care, custody, and education of foster children shall work together to ensure continuity of educational services to ensure that foster children remain in their schools whenever possible and are moved in a timely manner when determined appropriate and in their best interest.
  • The agency shall consider continuity of educational services and school stability in making foster care placements.
  • Every school district is required to identify a foster care liaison to ensure and facilitate school enrollment and the timely transfer of records when a child changes placement. The new school must immediately enroll the child even if he or she is lacking required clothing or records.
  • School districts shall recognize the rights of the foster parents pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A foster parent may have educational rights to consent to an IEP if the court has limited the educational rights of the parent.
  • Grades of a foster child may not be lowered due to a change in the childs school enrollment, attendance at a dependency-neglect court proceeding, or court-ordered counseling or treatment.

Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Court Automation System

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Administrative Office of the Courts received $4 million to develop a court automation system. The Court Improvement Project is working closely with the automation project director to determine how dependency-neglect information will be captured in the system. This system, however, is still being developed and has not yet been implemented. The estimate for statewide implementation is eight to 10 years.

In the interim, the Arkansas CIP developed a database that tracks all dependency-neglect hearings. Through this database, the CIP can track timeliness of hearings, and permanency outcomes for children by race, gender, age outcome and time frame. Information obtained from this database has been very helpful in the CIP reassessment. For example, from the database, the CIP has been able to determine the reasons for closing cases in 2004: permanent custody 40.15%; return to parent/relative 37.66%; adoption 7.98%; child reached majority 6.23%; other 3.5%; guardianship 2.74%; transfer to another jurisdiction 1.2%; and agency dismissed - .5%. In addition, the data indicates that the most common plan set by the courts in the state for cases closed in 2004 is permanent custody, continued reunification, followed by return to parent/guardian, termination of parental rights, and independence. Among the less frequently used plans were adoption, closing case, guardianship, long term foster care, other, and ruling reserved. The results pertaining to the cases closed in 2004 reveal that length of stay of a child in the court system was approximately 588 days (1.6 years). The average age of the children for whom cases were closed in 2004 was approximately 7.59 years of age when the case was opened and 9.45 when the case was closed.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Court Technology Grants

The Court Improvement Project provides technology grants to courts that agree to hold time-specific hearings and provide orders at the end of hearings. These funds are used to provide computers and related technology for computerized scheduling and orders. As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Court Improvement Project set aside $35,000 for this project and funded seven grants totaling $28,000. The funds primarily help agency attorneys, who are responsible for doing the orders. The courts have had a positive response and the parties believe that having the court orders distributed following the hearing is moving cases faster.

Due to the success of the initial grant program, the CIP will accept applications for an additional seven sites in July 2005. The original sites are maintaining the operating costs of the program.
Technology
Technology: Computer Equipment

Reassessment

The Court Improvement Project selected eight court sites for review beginning in June 2004. The CIP created surveys, as well as instruments for case file reviews, court observations, and interviews. All surveys have been completed and data entered from the responses of judges, attorneys, caseworkers, CASAs, and foster parents. With the CIP, teams of attorneys, child welfare agency staff, and CASA representatives conducted 13 court site visits. The teams observed 102 hearings, interviewed 113 individuals, and reviewed 203 files that had a permanency planning hearing in 2003.

The data is being analyzed and the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee is meeting for three days in June 2005 to make its findings and recommendations. The Court Improvement Project plans to have the reassessment complete in June 2005, and will include findings and recommendations for future Court Improvement Project activities.

Based on the detailed preliminary information received through the court site visits, the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee requested that these visits continue. The general plan is to set a schedule to visit all courts over a period of several years and the CIP is developing a schedule to meet this goal.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Arkansas participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in July 2001. The Court Improvement Project Director was involved in the process of planning and conducting the review, as well as drafting the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The Court Improvement Project is involved in work on three major areas that are included in the PIP: assessment, case planning, and training.

The Arkansas PIP is scheduled to be completed in June 2005. The CIP has been frustrated because, due to huge staff shortages in the child welfare agency, the PIP has had to be revised and, once again, good plans will be delayed as a result.
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

Arkansas received increased funding from the state legislature, in the amount of $11,944,119, to support the Attorney Ad Litem and CASA Programs.
Funding Issues




California


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www.courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/cfcc

Unified Courts for Families Program

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, California developed Unified Courts for Families (UCF) Mentor Court programs. During 2004, the Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (CFCC) staff continued its work on the Mentor Courts project, which provides funding for local courts to implement innovations in the coordination and unification of multiple court cases.

The California UCF Mentor Court programs are now in the third year of their three-year grant period. Six UCF Mentor Court programs were established in early 2003 in seven California counties (one program includes a collaboration between two counties): Del Norte, Los Angeles, Napa, San Joaquin, Yolo and Butte and Glenn. In spring 2004, a seventh UCF mentor court was added to the project, in Placer County. These seven courts are piloting a variety of unification models for coordination of multiple cases.

Each program has developed criteria for selecting its families and cases. The participating courts have hired additional staff, such as case coordinators or case managers, attorneys, administrative clerks, and resource specialists. Each program has been engaged in drafting local rules and protocols to accomplish the objectives of the overall UCF project. The programs have met with judicial officers, court executives and operations staff, attorneys (including county counsel, public defenders, and private attorneys), probation officers, Child Welfare Services, community-based service providers, and other stakeholders to collaborate on local rules and protocols. Many of the local rules and protocols being developed cover issues regarding bundling and sharing of information across court divisions.

An annual meeting of the Mentor Court programs occurred in June 2005, at which time an interim report was distributed.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Juvenile Review and Technical Assistance

The Judicial Review and Technical Assistance (JRTA) project, which has been discussed extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, continues to assist courts across the state to improve compliance with Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Services provided to courts by JRTA staff include courtesy reviews of court files of dependent and delinquent children in foster care placements, which check for the findings and orders necessary to maintain compliance with Title IV-E, state, and federal laws; and a report to the presiding judge of the juvenile court in each county visited, which includes a compilation of data related to judicial findings and orders required by Title IV-E. JRTA staff continues to conduct special workshops and trainings tailored to meet the needs of judicial officers, clerks, attorneys, social workers, and probation officers. JRTA staff collaborated with the University of California at Davis in several regional trainings for probation officers throughout California.

In June 2004, CFCC staff developed and published the Guide to the Juvenile Justice System for Juvenile Court Professionals [CA-04-03]. This guide covers much of the same information as the Juvenile Court Administrative Deskbook [CA-03-03], which provides an introduction to the complex juvenile dependency and delinquency systems. The Deskbook also provides judicial officers and court staff with information about the Judicial Council and CFCC. Unlike the Deskbook, the Guide to the Juvenile Justice System for Juvenile Court Professionals is directed toward nonjudicial professionals working in the court system.

Additionally, JRTA has undertaken two new initiatives: the Permanency Project and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Full Compliance Initiative. The Permanency Project is developing and implementing a program to provide technical assistance to judicial officers regarding various aspects of termination of parental rights and concurrent planning as required by California's Program Improvement Plan. Training will be made available to social services, probation departments, and other stakeholders. A half-time attorney was hired in December 2004 to launch this new initiative on permanency. Also related to this initiative is the ongoing participation of CFCC staff in a workgroup of the Permanency for Youth Project, a collaboration between public and nonprofit agencies working on child welfare issues.

The ICWA Full Compliance Project is promoting full compliance with ICWA by making available a range of cross-disciplinary facilitation and training services provided by CFCC staff and outside consultants. The services will be tailored to the needs of the local county or region. In addition, the local protocols, standing orders, grievance procedures, legal and data-supported research memoranda, journal articles, and other materials compiled and developed during the county-based facilitations and trainings will be made available statewide. An attorney and a court analyst are launching the ICWA Full Compliance Initiative.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Implementation and Review Teams
Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
Training and Education: Other Training

Dependency Counsel Caseload Standards and Funding Accountability Project

As discussed extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, California previously passed legislation that requires the appointment of independent counsel for every child in dependency proceedings unless the court specifically finds that the child would not benefit from the appointment of counsel. In addition, the legislation prohibits agency attorneys from representing children and requires the Judicial Council, through the Center for Families, Children & the Courts (CFCC), to promulgate rules related to the duties of children's attorneys and caseload guidelines designed to allow them to adequately perform those duties.

As a result of this legislation, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) contracted with the American Humane Association to conduct a comprehensive study of court-appointed counsel for children and parents aimed at producing a maximum caseload guideline based on specific performance standards. An interim report was issued in November 2003 [CA-03-02], and the final report was completed and submitted to the Judicial Council in June 2004 [CA-04-02].

The caseload study had four distinct components:

  • Defining Dependency Counsel Work. More than 150 attorneys and judicial officers provided information regarding their dependency counsel work.
  • Workload Study. This study was conducted to determine the time it takes to deliver services; 591 attorneys and 131 support staff participated in a two-week workload study.
  • Structured Estimation Focus Groups. These groups were utilized to determine the amount of time attorneys should spend providing case services.
  • Development of Models. Models were developed to identify caseload standards based on structured estimation results.

The AOC and the American Humane Association determined that the current statewide caseload was 273. Based on the study results, the evaluators recommended a maximum caseload of 141 cases per full-time dependency attorney. 'The recommended caseload figure presumes both certain frequencies of attorney activities at required specified stages of any given dependency proceeding and certain amounts of time required to complete those activities, and is designed to ensure that attorneys have adequate time to provide the investigation and advocacy necessary to secure appropriate outcomes for dependent children and their families.'

Two related initiatives currently underway are the Reimbursement Program Funding review and the Service Delivery Model Analysis. Reimbursement Program Funding addresses the process by which courts are reimbursed for court-appointed counsel costs. Before the initiation of the program, courts were forward-funded court-appointed counsel allocations, and little information was available as to how those allocations were actually spent. Under Reimbursement Program Funding, courts submit copies of paid provider invoices to the AOC and are then reimbursed for identified costs. Reimbursement Program Funding was implemented both to ensure that funds allocated for appointed counsel services would be used solely for that purpose and to determine the scope and extent of variances in attorney compensation rates and contracting models.

The Service Delivery Model Analysis served to identify optimal delivery models for court-appointed counsel services. The Spangenberg Group was hired to assist in identifying the most cost-effective delivery model for quality appointed dependency counsel services. As a result of the analysis, the recommendation to adopt a centralized dependency counsel administration model was included in the final caseload study. Currently, the Dependency Representation Administration Funding and Training (DRAFT) Outcome and Process Evaluation Working Group is developing evaluation criteria and models in order to evaluate the impact of service delivery models on attorney performance, see Dependency Representation: Administration, Funding and Training (DRAFT) Program.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

Dependency Representation: Administration, Funding and Training (DRAFT) Program

As discussed extensively in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Dependency Representation: Administration, Funding and Training (DRAFT) Program began during fiscal year 2004'2005, and involves a direct contractual relationship between the AOC and court-appointed attorneys in ten participating court systems. This direct relationship is distinct from that in place in all other court systems in the state, where attorneys or agencies contract with, and are paid by, local courts. The pilot program is designed to evaluate the efficacy of the caseload standards as developed by the American Humane Association, see Dependency Counsel Caseload Standards and Funding Accountability Project, to develop and implement uniform performance and compensation standards for court-appointed counsel in participating courts, and to increase and enhance training and oversight of dependency counsel providers.

The DRAFT Pilot Program is under way in 10 participating court systems: Imperial, Los Angeles, Marin, Mendocino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Stanislaus. A memorandum issued in January 2005 [CA-05-01] provides a brief update on the status of the various DRAFT Pilot Program Implementation Committee working groups and includes supporting documents and materials accompanying the memo. The eight working groups of the Committee include the following: 1) Appellate Issues; 2) Attorney Performance; 3) Billing System; 4) Compensation and Organizational Models; 5) Conflicts and Ethics; 6) Cost Recovery; 7) DRAFT Outcome and Process Evaluation; and 8) Technical Assistance.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

CASA/Attorney Collaboration

The CASA/Attorney Collaboration Demonstration Project, discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2003, observes the collaboration and describes the joint and distinct activities of the CASA volunteer and child's attorney on behalf of 35 children - ten who are three and under and 25 who are 14 and older and have been placed in planned permanent living arrangements. Two CASA programs ' a large, urban program and a small, rural program both located in northern California ' comprised the pilot project. The urban CASA program left the project in November 2003. Santa Cruz remained in the project until the end, which was April 30, 2005. Final interviews have been conducted and the data is being analyzed now. There will be a report available on the CFCC website by the end of September 2005. Those children who were in the project and are still in the dependency system continue to be served by an attorney, social worker, and a CASA. Some of the children in the project aged out of the system during the project timeline and, therefore, would no longer be receiving services.

By offering regular and consistent opportunities for CASA volunteers, minors' attorneys, and social workers to meet and discuss cases, the project showcases how all three collaborate as equal yet independent partners to better meet the needs of children. Although the project began as a collaboration between the CASA and attorneys, it has grown to include the social workers in the regularly scheduled meetings. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, and quarterly reports document how the collaborations are evolving over the three-year project. Best practices will be developed and distributed to California CASA programs at the conclusion of the pilot.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

Family Law Information Centers

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2003, CFCC piloted and evaluated Family Law Information Centers. Three pilot Family Law Information Centers provide information on juvenile dependency issues, as well as a variety of other family law issues. The Centers provide resources and referrals to parents, defacto parents, and other interested persons to help them understand the juvenile dependency process. The Centers often work in coordination with Child Welfare Services or other agencies to help parents obtain temporary restraining orders, guardianships, or other civil remedies to protect children without the necessity of juvenile court intervention. A number of courts in California have also expanded various types of family law self-help assistance to provide guidance to parents with custody concerns. As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2003, based on the favorable evaluation, the Judicial Council directed staff to develop a budget request for statewide funding of Family Law Information Centers. Due to the ongoing budget crisis in California, however, statewide implementation is not possible at this time. The three pilot Centers continue to operate in Fresno, Los Angeles, and Sutter Counties. The intent is for these programs to be ongoing and permanent.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties
Evaluation
Evaluation: Pilot Projects

Juvenile Court Automation Project

California's Department of Social Services has a case management system for juvenile cases, which is known as CWS/CMS. California courts do not yet have such a statewide system. CFCC has continued to monitor implementation of California's child welfare case management system. At collaborative meetings with CFCC staff and the AOC's Information Services Division (IS) staff, discussions addressed the development of juvenile court data elements for the statewide court case management system, which is currently being developed. CIP staff monitored local court case management development and implementation.

CIP staff and AOC IS staff began work with a consultant from MTG Management Consulting, Inc. in Seattle to identify data exchange opportunities between the statewide court case management system and both the statewide child welfare case management system and the statewide child support case management system currently being developed. AOC and consultant staff began discussions with representatives from the child welfare agency and child support agency to plan for future data exchanges with the courts. CIP staff will attend the July 2005 conference sponsored by the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology. The statewide court case management system and the anticipated data exchanges are in the early stages of a multiyear, long-term project.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Miscellaneous Training and Community Collaboration

During the past year, CFCC staff has participated in several training events and expanded its involvement in community collaborations. These include the following:

  • Beyond the Bench Conference: Engaging Communities. In December 2004, CFCC sponsored the 15th annual Beyond the Bench Conference in San Jose, California. In addition to the yearly offering of workshops and plenary sessions addressing issues related to juvenile court, the event included for the first time a session specifically for youth involved in the juvenile courts and a training session for attorneys on basic dependency law [CA-04-04].
  • Northern California Association of Counsel for Children. CFCC co-sponsors quarterly trainings with the Northern California Association of Counsel for Children, an affiliate of the National Association of Counsel for Children based in Denver, Colorado.
  • Out of Home Youth Advocacy Council (OHYAC). CFCC staff has also become involved in the Northern California chapter of OHYAC, a coalition dedicated to improving care and outcomes of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) foster youth.
  • Permanency for Youth Project. CFCC also participates in the California Permanency for Youth Project, a public/private partnership dedicated to improving the permanency options for older foster youth. In particular, CFCC serves as a member of the courts/child welfare working group of the project.

Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs
Community Collaboration

Legislation and Court Rules

Some of the most significant juvenile dependency related legislation that was signed into law in California in 2003 is listed below. The effective date for each bill is January 1, 2004. The text of each piece of legislation can be found on the California legislature's web site: www.leginfo.ca.gov.

  • AB 44. Corrects statutory changes created in error in 2002 regarding notice provisions in dependency cases. Requires service of notice of a hearing to terminate parental rights to be completed 30 days before the date of the hearing in a case where publication is ordered. Provides that the notice for a continuation of hearing to terminate parental rights may be by any means that the court determines is reasonably calculated to provide notice of the continued hearing.
  • AB 129. Authorizes any county to develop a protocol that would permit a minor who meets specified criteria to be designated a dual status child, as both a dependent and a ward of the juvenile court. Requires the Judicial Council to evaluate the results of implementing the protocol, and to report its findings to the Legislature.
  • AB 1858. Requires that specified pupil data be kept for children in non-public schools (NPS) within group homes. Places new restrictions on NPS located within group homes, including the requirement that they certify annually that each child needs to be in the NPS, and a prohibition on requiring that children placed within the home be identified as needing special education services.
  • AB 1913. Allows counties to grant a temporary exemption for a foster care provider who has a criminal records check, as reported by the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications Check System (CLETS), to provide emergency foster care to a child who is a relative, while the county awaits confirmation of the criminal background information per the results of a fingerprint check administered through the Department of Justice.
  • AB 2228. Requires a family court to provide to the probate court in a guardianship proceeding, and requires a family law court or a court in a guardianship proceeding to provide to the juvenile court, upon request, all available information the court deems necessary to make a determination regarding the best interest of a child, as specified. Exempt from this requirement are confidential family law mediations and the confidential dependency mediations. Provides that records shared pursuant to the bill may not be disclosed to any party in a case unless the party requests that the originating agency or court release the records and the request is granted.
  • AB 2292. Authorizes the court to grant visitation rights to a former legal guardian except when a dependency case involving the child is ongoing. In the absence of a court order, authorizes the former guardian to maintain an independent action for visitation with his or her former minor ward. Authorizes the probate court to make visitation orders for the former guardian when terminating a guardianship.
  • AB 2496. Establishes the Child Welfare Services Program Improvement Fund within the State Treasury for the receipt of private donations for the purpose of enhancing the state's ability to provide a comprehensive system of supports that promotes positive outcomes for children and families. Monies made available through this fund must be used to augment federal, state, or county funds made available for the child welfare services program.
  • AB 2502. Requires the juvenile court to approve or deny, in writing, a request for the administration of psychotropic medication to a dependent or set it for a hearing within seven court days.
  • AB 2749. Requires that child welfare workers conducting investigations under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act shall advise the subject of the investigation of complaints or allegations against them in a manner consistent with the law protecting the rights of informants. Provides that training for child welfare workers emphasizes information on the constitutional and statutory rights of individuals subject to investigation.
  • AB 2795. Extends to 60 days the maximum time made available to a child welfare worker to complete a written case plan to allow caseworkers the opportunity to engage with the child and its family and solicit their input. Authorizes the provision of family maintenance services for multiple six-month extensions until the child reaches the age of 18.
  • AB 2807. Revises provisions requiring the court to make orders to ensure that dependent children 10 years and older in a group-home placement maintain relationships with individuals consistent with the child's best interests. Restricts the application of such orders to children who have been in a group home for six months or longer, from the date the child entered foster care. Clarifies that the mandate for a visitation order or finding of detriment applies when the juvenile court establishes a permanent plan of either a guardianship or long-term foster care.
  • AB 3079. Eliminates appellate filing fees in mental health and juvenile cases. Provides CASAs with access to a social worker's complete report to the court at least 10 days prior to the date of a hearing. Clarifies the scope of a rule of court concerning attorney contact information in dependency cases. Specifies that attorneys for children are neither required to provide nor precluded from providing contact information to a child under the age of 10.
  • SB 1104, Human Services Budget Trailer Bill. The appropriation of funds in the 2004-2005 Budget Act authorizes the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, in collaboration with the Judicial Council and the input of the Department of Social Services, to make supplemental allocations to counties receiving a Comprehensive Drug Court Initiative grant for implementation or expansion of dependency drug courts. Requires, as a condition of receiving funds, that grantees report specified outcomes, including foster care savings realized by the courts. The Collaborative Courts Advisory Committee is managing the funds appropriated in the 2004-2005 budget act.
  • SB 1178, Teen Parents in Foster Care Act. Requires child welfare agencies to place dependent children who are parents in placements where they can be treated as a unit with their children whenever possible to maintain the minor-parent child relationship, and to be provided services to support and preserve that relationship.
  • SB 1313, Child Abuse Reporting. Makes numerous changes to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) as recommended by the CANRA task force. Clarifies that CASAs are mandated reporters.

Rules of court, forms, and standards of judicial administration were developed to improve efficiency and quality in juvenile dependency cases. Following are some of the major adopted rules and forms affecting juvenile dependency and related cases. CFCC was involved in drafting, editing, and consulting on all these initiatives. Effective January 1, 2005:

  • Rule 1405.5. Clarifies the education, training, and experience requirements applicable to dependency court mediators and to provide flexibility in meeting the rule's requirements.
  • Rules 1410, 1412, 1460 - 1463, and 1466 of the California Rules of Court and Form JV-365, Termination of Dependency Jurisdiction - Child Attaining the Age of Majority. Primarily ensures that children in foster care retain or reestablish important relationships with individuals other than parents or siblings. Also addresses notice and requirements regarding children's presence at court proceedings.
  • Rule 1438. Requires attorneys for dependent children to provide their contact information to the child's caregivers, and to the children in specified circumstances, in a timely manner.
  • Rule 1450. Requires that, when allegations are not proven, the court must order the child's return to the physical custody of his or her parent or guardian within two working days of the decision.
  • Rule 1449. Requires the court to advise the parent or guardian that, upon dismissal of the petition, their child must be returned within two days of the court order.

In addition to the above, the Judicial Council adopted Rules 38.2 and 38.3 of the California Rules of Court to introduce the procedural requirements for appealing a post-termination placement order for a dependent child. The Judicial Council also revised form JV-220, Application and Order for Authorization to Administer Psychotropic Medication-Juvenile, and form JV-220A, Opposition to Application for Authorization to Administer Order for Psychotropic Medication-Juvenile, to assist the court in making a timely decision regarding the administration of psychotropic medication for a dependent child who has been removed from a parent's physical custody and to make the form easier to read, understand, and complete.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders

Reassessment

CFCC submitted a plan for conducting the reassessment of California's juvenile courts to Region IX of the Department of Health and Human Services on June 30, 2003, which was approved in July 2003. The Reassessment Team consists of two attorneys, two research analysts, a judicial fellow, an administrative coordinator, and volunteer law students. A supervising attorney and supervising research analyst oversee the work of the Reassessment Team. The Team works under the guidance of the CIP Reassessment Working Group, which is a subcommittee of the Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee of the Judicial Council.

The Team continues studying the accomplishments and challenges faced by California's juvenile courts over the past five years, while focusing on the current and future needs of the courts. Research tasks have included:

  • Designing and administering five statewide surveys to juvenile court judicial officers, attorneys for parents and children, attorneys representing child welfare agencies, court executive officers or managers, and child welfare agency administrators.
  • Conducting on-site research including interviews and focus groups in six of California's 58 courts: Humboldt, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, and Tulare. Interviews were conducted with presiding juvenile judges, other juvenile judicial officers, dependency court managers or court executive officers, information technology specialists, CASA directors, child welfare directors, and others. Focus groups were conducted with parents in the dependency system, current and former foster children, social workers, foster parents, attorneys, and tribal representatives.
  • Gathering and analyzing electronic data from some of the six court sites, and from other sources, including the state child welfare case management system (CWS/CMS via UC Berkeley's website), the Judicial Review and Technical Assistance (JRTA) database, the Court Appointed Counsel study, and U.S. census data.

New CIP recommendations are being developed based on the research findings. Those recommendations will be included in the reassessment report and incorporated into the new CIP strategic plan, which was submitted with the annual program report in June 2005. Although the plan was submitted in June 2005, CIP continues to work with its regional representative on editing the Strategic Plan.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

California participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2002. JRTA staff helped with logistics and onsite review by participating in conference calls regarding pulling files and getting them to one location. JRTA team members also participated as team reviewers. JRTA staff that participated as team reviewers served as legal staff assisting with the assessment. Members of the CIP staff were not invited to be interviewed.

CFCC staff participated in the working group that made recommendations regarding the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). California's PIP was approved on June 24, 2003. The state Department of Social Services, in collaboration with county welfare directors, federal staff from the regional office of the Children's Bureau, CFCC staff, and others have been engaged in activities related to the implementation of the PIP. CFCC staff is undertaking efforts to implement those provisions of the PIP related to judicial education. CFCC efforts include the following:

  • Regular participation in the meetings of the Statewide Training Education Committee of the California Social Work Education Center at the University of California at Berkeley. That committee is addressing issues related to social worker education that were raised in the PIP, as well as social work education in general.
  • Statewide training for probation officers on termination of parents rights as part of a collaboration with the University of California at Davis. The training was provided from January through March 2005 at six locations throughout the state.
  • Future technical assistance to judicial officers on termination of parental rights as part of its permanency initiative. The technical assistance will be made available to judicial officers in the 11 largest counties and will be open to other system professionals at the request of each presiding juvenile court judge.
  • CFCC staff was recently invited to participate in California's new statewide Citizen Review Board, which will be monitoring the implementation of CFSR initiatives, as well as Title IV-E and Title IV-B compliance.

Child and Family Services Review




Colorado


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Expedited Permanency Planning Program (EPP)

In 1994, the Colorado Legislature set forth an Expedited Permanency Program (EPP) for children under six years of age that requires the permanency planning hearing to be held within 12 months of placement. The Colorado Department of Human Services, in conjunction with the Colorado Judicial Department, reported to the Colorado Legislature annually to address the progress toward statewide implementation of this measure, the effectiveness of the program, and an assessment of whether out-of-home placement costs have been avoided. In December 2003, the final report was submitted to the Legislature.

Because EPP has been successfully implemented statewide, permanency is occurring in a more timely fashion. According to the most recent data, approximately 82 percent of children under six involved in dependency and neglect cases are achieving permanency within one year of removal. The local jurisdictions are reporting that the other 18 percent are achieving permanency within a few months of the one-year mark. This progress has been made despite increasing caseloads and budget crises. Colorado will maintain its focus on EPP as recommended by the 2003 report. Further, EPP guidelines will continue to be implemented on a voluntary basis in other cases, fostering expedited permanency for older children as well.

The issue of combining the adjudication and disposition hearing is still being studied. While the EPP legislation expresses a preference for this type of case management, the Department of Human Services seeks to create a more meaningful, targeted service plans with the full involvement of families and family support systems. This issue merits additional discussion and collaboration between the Courts and the Department of Human Services.

In the 2003 EPP report, Colorado expressed an intent to research disruptions in permanent placements. Stakeholders hope that the development of performance measures and increased reporting mechanisms through the SANCA-MIS project (discussed below in SANCA-MIS Grant) will provide information on which to begin discourse on the issue of disruptions. With a goal of stabilizing placements, legislation introduced in 2005 supports the existing practice of diligent relative placement searches at the inception of a dependency or neglect case.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Model Courts Project

The Court Improvement Project (CIP) is entering a partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in their Model Courts project. Colorado will be the first state to include three Model Court sites. The intent was to select a rural, urban and a mid-sized jurisdiction to receive and implement Model Court initiatives that could be disseminated throughout similar jurisdictions. The selected sites are Denver County (urban), Adams County (rural), and El Paso County (mid-sized). This project will help Colorado courts identify barriers to the timeliness of court events and delivery of services for children and families. Through the Model Courts Project, Colorado intends to address the specific issue of minority overrepresentation. The partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges became effective April 1, 2005 and the initial site visits will occur in June 2005.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program

The CIP continues to lend support to the development of CASA programs throughout the state. Resources have been provided to Colorado CASA to establish new programs in Montrose County, Cortez County, and all seven counties within the 13th Judicial District. Three more counties are expected to expand their CASA programs in rural communities with the assistance of the CIP.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

Legal Representation

The Court Improvement Committee continues to address the issue of representation of parties. The representation of children has improved significantly since 1996, due to the creation of the Office of the Childs Representative. The Office of the Childs Representative has been discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. Largely a development of the Colorados CIP, this statewide office oversees compensation and training for childrens attorneys and has improved the representation of children. The Committee has now shifted its focus to Respondent Parents Counsel with regards to training and standards of practice. The Committee is currently designing training curricula for Respondent Parents Counsel and has instituted training standards equal to that required for guardians ad litem.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

Project UPLIFT/Appellate Reform

As reported in prior Court Improvement Project Progress Reports, an Adoption Opportunities Grant was awarded for Colorado to implement Project UPLIFT (Understanding Permanency Lessons in Future Teamwork). Through this grant, the CIP purchased real-time and digital recording technology for courtrooms holding termination trials in every jurisdiction except one. The Colorado Judicial Department has agreed to assist in preparing annual evaluations on this project for the next four years.

In addition, funds were used to support the development of draft rules to improve the appellate process, i.e., shortening the time lines and providing new forms. Through technical assistance from the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues, Judge Vogel, Iowa Supreme Court, facilitated two community meetings to discuss Iowas appellate changes. A current draft of the expedited appellate rules was presented at a public hearing before the Colorado Supreme Court in January 2005 and the Supreme Court unanimously approved the rules, effective March 1, 2005.

Statewide training on the rules is in process. The Court of Appeals circulated a statewide memo explaining the process and materials have been posted on the public website. The rule change was presented at the Family Issues Conference in May 2005. Local multidisciplinary trainings are being held. Although initial implementation is progressing well, issues concerning the preparation of the transcript and the representation of parties must continue to be addressed.
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals
Technology
Technology: Equipment
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Orders

SANCA-MIS Grant

The CIP received a SANCA-MIS grant in the amount of $156,000. The project period began May 1, 2004 and should be completed by April 30, 2006. This grant is allowing Colorado to develop several improvements to the statewide case management system, the Integrated Colorado Online Network (ICON/E-clipse). Specifically, the Colorado SANCA project has four main focus areas that correlate with the objectives stated on the project plan: data transfer between the child welfare agency and the Judicial Branch; document/report generation; development of a centralized information screen; and incorporation of a stand-alone juvenile timeline database into Colorados management information system, ICON/E-clipse.

The performance measures being developed are based on the Packard performance measures, as implemented according to local practice. Because ICON/E-clipse is a statewide system, performance measures and data elements will be incorporated on a statewide basis. The Colorado SANCA team has developed business rules and specifications for the transfer of data between the child welfare agency and the Judicial Branch, and now initial programming is occurring.

Colorados Judicial Branch currently exchanges information with the Drivers License Division, Colorados Bureau of Criminal Investigations, and the Office of Recovery Services. In the context of the SANCA project, court representatives have been meeting regularly with the Department of Human Services to identify data to be transferred between the two agencies. Both agencies have jointly determined what data transfer is necessary to meet the performance measure requirements, reduce redundant data entry, and address needs identified in the specifications for the centralized information screen. The court management team and agency staff have identified which agency will send the data initially, the point of initiation, and which agency will have update capability to the data being transferred.

Colorado is also designing a process for electronic case filing in dependency and neglect cases. The goal is that when the originating document is physically filed with the court, the data entered into the agencys Trails system will be available for acceptance on an ICON/E-clipse electronic case filing screen. A clerk would simply need to assign a case number, division, and judicial officer assignment and verify the data with the physical pleading thus reducing redundant data entry. This process will be added into the project plan if time permits; otherwise it will be scheduled for a later release.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Truancy Case Processing/Mediation Programs

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) reviewed truancy case processing during 2003. This review was precipitated by several events, including the threat of legislative reform removing truancy case jurisdiction from the judicial branch, delinquency detention bed caps, truancy filing fluctuations, the increasing complexity of societal and familial truancy case related issues, and the planned implementation of truancy pilot mediation programs.

The NCSC conducted site visits, distributed a statewide questionnaire, interviewed professionals, and reviewed cases. The results were then analyzed in light of Colorados plan to implement three truancy pilot mediation programs in the Second District (Denver), the Fourth District (Colorado Springs), and the Eighteenth District (Centennial). In Colorado, each school district has developed procedures for identifying and intervening with habitually truant children. The school district usually has an array of truancy reduction services such as notice of nonattendance letters, parental phone notification, school counseling sessions, student attendance review boards, and truancy reduction services. If these services are unsuccessful, the school district can file a truancy petition with the local judicial district. The mediation programs will emphasize partnerships between schools, social services agencies, probation, state attorneys general, juvenile courts, and teen courts to reduce truancy.

The Court Improvement Project pledged $15,000 for truancy pilots in Arapahoe, Denver, and El Paso Counties in 2004 to include an evaluation of each pilot. By focusing on alternative dispute resolution techniques, these pilot programs will seek to identify children who may be involved in dependency or neglect situations before such cases become more complicated. The Court Improvement Project will receive a report from the three pilot sites in June 2005. There are no statistics at this time.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
New/Innovative Projects

In-Depth Technical Assistance from National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, Colorado is one of four states to receive In-Depth Technical Assistance from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare in its first round of assistance. Currently, Colorados Judicial Branch is collaborating with the Department of Human Services to develop and implement a protocol for handling child welfare cases involving substance abuse. The protocol has been developed and the work group continues to meet, even though funding for the project has been depleted. Despite scarce state resources, the group hopes to increase resources for substance abuse treatment for parents. Several districts have developed memorandums of procedure to implement the protocols. A statewide meeting between the Judicial Branch and the child welfare agency to review progress on this initiative to date will be held on June 2005.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Handbooks for Children and Parents

The What Happens to Me Now? [CO-04-01] childrens books were completed in September 2004 with CIP support. There are three levels of What Happens to Me Now? with three different age groups in mind: an activity/story book for children 3-6, an interactive book for children 7-12, and a narrative book for children over the age of 12. The book was developed with the aid of child psychologists so children understand the sometimes confusing processes associated with dependency and neglect cases.

A Handbook for Families in Dependency and Neglect Cases [CO-04-02] was also created to offer some guidance about the dependency and neglect process, as well as address the parents responsibilities in these cases. Eight hundred handbooks were distributed within one month of publication and a second printing has been ordered.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

Training

The CIP is sponsoring the Family Issues Conference in the spring of 2005. The Conference will be a collaborative effort between the Judiciary, the Colorado Bar Association, the Department of Human Services, and Guardians Ad Litem.

The CIP also sponsored the Family Court Facilitator's Conference in May 2004. Training sessions included Child Support, Case Management/Best Practices, Ethics, Secondary Trauma, Implementing Systems Change, and Practical Implications. The Conference also gave the local facilitators a chance to meet new facilitators and share information about activities in their respective judicial districts.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
Training and Education: Other Training

Child and Family Services Review

Colorado participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2002. For the initial phase, CIP assisted in gathering information and data. Committee members participated in stakeholder interviewers. Local representatives participated in case reviews.

For the onsite assessment, CIP staff reviewed and assisted with written materials. With regards to the PIP, most of the recommendations from the CFSR were specific to the agency. However, judicial comment was offered on the specific elements dealing with the courts. The Judiciary was primarily responsible for training. Training topics were negotiated between the child welfare agency and the judiciary. In response to the Program Improvement Plan (PIP), Colorado's CIP sponsored the "Stepping Up to Juvenile Court" training presented to juvenile judges in February 2004. The workshop highlighted the requirements of new federal and state legislation, chief justice directives, rules, and policies affecting time frames and handling of all juvenile cases including Paternity, Child Support, Adoption, Relinquishment, Dependency and Neglect, Truancy, and Delinquency. Guest speakers were also brought in to present on Child Development, Recognition of Physical Abuse and Treatment, and Minority Overrepresentation.

An interactive CD-Rom based on the Stepping Up curriculum has also been developed. The CD-Rom uses video, audio, and PowerPoint to navigate judges through each juvenile segment. Copies of this CD-Rom will be made available to all judges and magistrates. Colorado is currently preparing for the second round of reviews by working towards the PIP. The next department training will focus on involving fathers in permanency.
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

Colorado underwent a funding crisis in 2004 that resulted in a 17 percent reduction in judicial staff statewide. At the same time, dependency and neglect filings increased about 10 percent each year for the last two years. Nevertheless, Colorado continues to meet the time standards set by state and federal legislation. Many courts would like to implement innovations such as treatment courts but are restricted by budgetary constraints.

A significant issue identified in the 2002 Reassessment is that of representation. While Colorado is well served by a statewide office that oversees compensation and training for children's attorneys, this office has yet to achieve full funding for the services it seeks to provide. Parents' representation is probably the area of greatest financial need, both in the area of compensating attorneys fairly and ensuring that they have access to training specific to their practice.
Funding Issues




Connecticut


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Mediation

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Connecticut implemented a Child Protection Mediation Program. The Program receives two to four referrals per month. Cases referred include contested termination of parental rights (often where post-adoption contact is contemplated), contested guardianships, and cases with complex placement and visitation issues identified as barriers to permanency for children. Connecticut is currently contemplating expansion to include other case types, such as cases in which the identified permanency plan is contested by the biological parents.

During 2004, support for the program from the private bar representing children and parents, agency attorneys, and the child welfare agency progressively increased. The CIP Program Director and the Child Protection Mediation Program Manager were invited to conduct training sessions at all child welfare agency area offices. An overview and mini-training on the Mediation Program and referral process was developed and delivered to agency social workers and supervisors in each office. The Child Protection Mediation evaluation report will be included as a subset of the CIP Reassessment Report.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Training and Education
Training and Education: CASA/Social Worker Training

Notice to Foster/Adoptive Parents

As addressed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Court Improvement Project is reviewing how foster and adoptive parents are notified about court hearings. Notification to foster parents is the responsibility of the child welfare agency, the Department of Children and Families. This process has not been optimal for a variety of reasons, including the complexity of the statute governing who is to be notified, which can make it difficult for individual social workers who are responsible for generating the notice, and the time frames for scheduling cases in court.

During 2004, the Court Participation Work Group researched and reviewed the foster parents notification issue. The Work Group is comprised of members from the state foster care organization, the court, and the child welfare agencys foster care, case review, and training divisions. Based on this review, the child welfare agency submitted legislation during the current session to clarify when foster/adoptive parents are entitled to be heard regarding children in their care. The proposed language was written to clarify ASFA requirements in the state statute. This legislation is pending.

The Court Participation Work Group drafted a pamphlet for foster parents to help them understand the law and how they may be able to exercise their rights under the law. The Foster Parent and the Court pamphlet has been forwarded and reviewed by the Judicial Branch Legal Division. Following completion of the approval process and any changes made due to pending legislation, the CIP will print and disseminate the pamphlet and make it available on the Judicial Branch website.
Notice to and Participation of Parties
Notice to and Participation of Parties: Notice

Data Management System

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project has worked on enhancing its statewide Child Protection database. Most enhancements have been completed and allow for the collection of nonadversarial dispute resolution outcomes, e.g., Child Protection Mediation results. Other enhancements have included development of web-based forms, including a judgment file form and memorandum of hearing (hearing outcomes), a web-based scheduling calendar, implementation of the Differentiated Case Management Protocol for tracking case events and timeframes, and expansion of the ad hoc reporting capacity. At the present time, a user manual is being developed. The expected completion date is early fall of 2005.

Connecticut is currently reviewing local performance measures related to permanency outcomes. Data elements are under discussion. No final decision has been made as to when and where the measures will be implemented.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection

For the Record (FTR)

The Court Improvement Project has joined the Court Operations Division and IT Division of the Judicial Branch to bring new technology into the courtroom. As noted in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, "For the Record" (FTR) hardware and software were placed in five court locations, including the Child Protection Session. The FTR is used for the digital recording of hearings, allowing judges to access testimony instantaneously and to add their own notes. Transcripts can be obtained more quickly, which allows appeals to be given priority. Court improvement funds were used to purchase and install the hardware and software, as well as provide training to courtroom monitors who are responsible for recording proceedings. There has been some analysis performed from a case flow perspective, however, it is difficult to determine if any decrease in appeal time can be attributed directly to the FTR technology or other interventions.

During this grant cycle, four new "FTR" sites have been added. Training for court monitors in the new locations was provided by the Official Court Reporters Transcript Services Program Manager. The Judicial Branch is considering a plan to use "FTR" in all courtrooms in the future. The juvenile application has served as a "pilot" and proving ground for the technology. Information accuracy, storage, and retrieval have been greatly improved by the "FTR" technology.

CIP plans include use of future grant funds to complete the project in all Juvenile Matters courtrooms by July 1, 2007.
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals
Technology
Technology: Equipment

Reassessment

Connecticut's reassessment is underway. Through the Request for Proposal process the University of Southern Maine, Muskie Institute of Public Service, Institute for Child and Family Policy was selected in November 2004 to be the primary investigator for the reassessment. The Muskie team has met with the CIP Permanency Planning Committee to gain input on the scope of the issues of interest to be addressed in the reassessment. The contractor is currently assessing statewide data and developing data collection instruments and research protocols.

The CIP Program Director, in conjunction with the Chief Administrative Judge for Juvenile Matters, decided early in the reassessment process to conduct a survey of judges. The survey instrument was developed and tested with resources from other states and the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues. Eighty-five percent of the judges who received the survey completed it. The Muskie team wrote a preliminary report on the survey results and presented it to the CIP Permanency Planning Committee.

A preliminary reassessment report, including results from the Muskie teams work and the judges survey, will be submitted with the 2005-2007 Court Improvement application. Target date for completion of the reassessment, including a final report, is spring 2006.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Connecticut participated in the Child and Family Services Review in March 2002. The Court Improvement Project staff participated as members of the state review team and provided other assistance, including providing written materials and individuals to assist with the review.

In addition, the CIP and court administrators worked with the child welfare staff to prepare the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The CIP Program Director attended a day-long strategic planning meeting, is named as the lead for collaboration between the PIP implementation staff and the CIP, and is named in the initiative related to child protection mediation. The Training Workgroup is currently planning for the annual Child and Youth Law Forum. The planning process includes examining child welfare agency PIP training initiatives and the development of trainings which are parallel and/or consistent with the PIP for the legal community.

The PIP implementation in Connecticut has been integrated into the "Exit Plan" for the federal court consent decree. The child welfare agency is currently under a federal court consent decree and is working to achieve outcomes listed in its Exit Plan in order to be released from federal court oversight. The Exit Plan outcomes were created by the federal monitor in consultation with the child welfare agency commissioner, and the agency received permission from the Department of Health and Human Services to integrate the PIP into the Exit Plan.
Child and Family Services Review
Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training




Delaware


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Delaware

CASA Expansion

As described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Delaware has continuously expanded its CASA program. As the guardian ad litem (GAL), the CASA volunteer represents the child's best interests and is charged with informing the judge if there is a conflict between the best interests of the child and the child's stated wishes. The judge then determines if the child needs an attorney in addition to a CASA, especially in termination cases. The goal of the court is to provide a CASA for every child.

Hiring freezes have been lifted and all vacancies in the CASA Program have been filled. Volunteer recruitment is continuous. Particular emphasis has been placed on recruiting more men and people of color. In the last fiscal year, 48 percent of the newly trained volunteers have been men or people of color. CASAs currently serve approximately 60 percent of the eligible children in Delaware. Between CASA volunteers and staff/pro bono attorneys from the Office of the Child Advocate, nearly all children in foster care now have a GAL.

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, a research consultant is evaluating the state CASA program through a grant from the National CASA Association. Although the evaluation is not scheduled to be complete until June 30, 2005, the Delaware CASA Program successfully completed the National CASA Association's Quality Assurance process in 2004 and met or exceeded 434 of the possible 438 measures (99% compliance). The major recommendation for improvement was to continue to recruit more men and more minority volunteers.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

Case Managers

In past years, the Delaware Court Improvement Project (CIP) provided funds for two case managers in the state. Currently, the state is funding the positions. Each county has assigned case managers who assist in moving child welfare cases through the court process. The case managers handle abuse and neglect proceedings, termination proceedings, and adoptions. The case managers also have coordinated a procedure with the CASA program by which the CASA staff can screen cases immediately and assign a CASA early in the case.
Court Staffing
Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

Automated Information Management System

The Family Court's Automated Management Information System, FAMIS, is a litigant-based system designed to facilitate case processing. Child welfare cases can be located in the system by entering the name of either parent, the child, the petition number, or the file number. FAMIS is accessible to judicial officers and authorized Family Court staff and shares some linkages with the state Bureau of Child Support Enforcement.

As reported in the prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Judicial Information Center has been working on developing data reports through FAMIS. Case management reports are in the final editing stage. Data entry began in July 2001 and is handled by the Civil Case Processing staff of the court, case managers, and judicial secretaries. Cases specific to CIP have been assigned unique codes so they can be identified by the system. The system will be able to generate reports from July 1, 2001. The Individual Petition Report will include identifying information, age of case (number of days since the petition was filed), dates of orders for each hearing stage, number of days between hearings, and any exceptions (time frames not met). The report will also show any upcoming hearings, pending petitions, if a final decision has been reached, and the date of the decision. Pending reports for open cases with each judge will include case number, county, file number, age of case, case caption, petition type, assigned judge, date assigned to judge, child, birth date, date of orders, number of days since last hearing, date of next hearing, and information regarding open petitions that are related to the case. Aggregate data will show the number of new filings and the number of each different kind of hearing held in a given time period, as well as the number of rescheduled cases at each stage of the process, the number of orders issued at each stage, and the number of cases withdrawn or dismissed. Aggregate data will be numbers only; the report will be able to reflect data for each judge, each county, or for the state.

Delaware is limited by the existing system. For example, FAMIS does not produce data on outcomes for individual children. However, the Delaware courts are in the process of developing a new MIS to be used by all courts. The new system will be called Courts Organized To Service (COTS) and will be used by all courts statewide so that information can be shared. It is being developed in eight phases with input from teams for all courts. A CIP judge is participating on one of the teams. Because of the complexity of its caseload, the Family Court will be the last court brought online for implementation. Planning is in progress to identify the needs of CIP reporting and what level of information sharing is needed with other agencies. System setup is scheduled to begin during the summer of 2005, with the entire system expected to be in place by the end of 2007.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

HHS Evaluation of CIP

New Castle County has been selected as a study site for the HHS in-depth evaluation of the CIP. Specifically, the HHS evaluation will look at Delaware's one judge/one case assignment practice, the sequence of hearings and reviews, and representation for indigent parents in child welfare proceedings. In January 2005, a team from PalTech, the contractor, met with relevant court staff, judges, and representatives of the child welfare agency to introduce the project and identify data collection issues.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Reassessment

Delaware's reassessment will be an adaptation of the original 1997 assessment. Information will be obtained through review of procedures, law, and rules; questionnaires; structured interviews; file reviews; court observations; and data reports. Special emphasis will be placed on how cases are handled for children who enter the system through delinquency actions and on achieving timely permanence through adoption, since these were two areas in which the state did not achieve the permanency standards in the Child and Family Services Review.

At the present time, a research consultant has been hired. Questionnaires have been developed for judges, attorneys for agencies and parents, the child welfare agency, the CASA Program, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the Child Placement Review Board. Forms have been prepared to record court observations. Distribution of the questionnaires began in January 2005; court observations started in February 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Delaware was the first state to complete the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in March 2001. The CIP Director, who is also the statewide manager of the CASA Program, participated in a focus group for the self-assessment, served as a case reviewer, and assisted in development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) through a committee organized by the child welfare agency.

Generally, due to the early review date, judicial or court staff involvement was very limited. The results of the CFSR primarily concerned children at home who are not under the court's jurisdiction. Most areas needing improvement were internal agency issues. The PIP was completed in March 2004. Although most of the PIP issues were not court related, the CIP Director received regular updates that she shared with the judges.

It is clear that the child welfare agency intends to seek greater participation from the court for the next CFSR. The court has expressed an interest in being more involved and the child welfare agency welcomes this support. The court and the child welfare agency are trying to maintain constructive communication and to understand each entity's strengths, requirements and limitations. There has been discussion of preparation for the second round at recent meetings, but the date has not been set.
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

The Family Court has requested two additional judges to handle the child welfare cases as well as other issues before the Family Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has made this issue the highest priority of the Judicial Branch's budget request.
Funding Issues




District of Columbia


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Family Treatment Court Pilot Project

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the District of Columbia established a Family Treatment Court in May 2003. The distinguishing feature of the Family Treatment Court is that it operates in collaboration with a separate facility to treat a service population of 18 mothers. Each mother is allowed to take no more than four children 10 years of age and younger into care with her. The Court has had 259 referrals since its inception, with 50 admissions and 31 graduates from the inpatient stage. Eighteen mothers have graduated from the community-based services portion of the program.

The Family Treatment Court is currently reviewing and revising some of its protocols. For example, the Family Treatment Court has taken only neglect cases, but is now considering taking some mild abuse cases if there is a nexus with substance abuse. In addition, the Family Treatment Court is seeking additional funding to provide assistance with transitional housing for women graduating from the program. Many women enrolled in the program do not have a home to which they can return or their prior living situation is not safe or supportive.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives
New/Innovative Projects

Attorney Advisor Compliance Reviews

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the District of Columbia initiated a Remedial Project in 2000 to resolve foster care cases that were out of compliance with the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The Remedial Project now operates as a function of the Family Court Attorney Advisor's Office. The first Attorney Advisor was hired at the end of March 2003, with a second joining the Office in August 2003.

Initially, the Attorney Advisors reviewed permanency cases for ASFA compliance, with referrals of potential compliance issues made by case coordinators. Under a more comprehensive system, the Attorney Advisors are now reviewing some part of almost every hearing that occurs with referrals coming from a variety of sources. By reviewing hearing orders available on the Integrated Justice Information System (IJIS) Courtview rather than hard copies from the files, the Attorney Advisors can provide feedback on compliance issues to the judges via email within a short time after the hearing is held, thus making remedial action more timely.

The Attorney Advisors' work has benefited immensely by use of the IJIS Courtview system and the ASFA statistical reports. Attorney Advisors monitor all statutorily dictated deadlines and contact judges in advance so that matters can be rescheduled without undue difficulty.

As a result of the Attorney Advisor Compliance Reviews, the District of Columbia has improved its ability to meet deadline dates in trials and make the required ASFA findings. For example, 80 percent of the cases filed in 2003 and 2004 were in compliance with the ASFA timeline for trials compared to 65 percent of the cases filed in 2002, 49 percent of the 2001 cases, and 34 percent of the cases filed in 2000. Similarly, the Court improved its compliance with holding permanency hearings within the ASFA timeline. In 2000, 51 percent of cases had a permanency hearing or the case was dismissed within the 425-day (14-month) deadline; in 2001, 80 percent of the cases had a permanency hearing or were dismissed; in 2002, 91 percent of the cases had a permanency hearing or were dismissed; and in 2003, 93 percent of the cases were in compliance. No case filed in 2004 had reached the statutory deadline for having a permanency hearing by December 31, 2004. Extensive statistics regarding other ASFA timelines can be found in the Family Court's 2004 Annual Report [DC-04-01].
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Other Initiatives
Court Staffing
Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution continues to be an essential component of child abuse and neglect case management. As detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division provides these services in the Family Court. In 2004, 90 percent of all abuse and neglect new referrals (involving 721 children) were referred to mediation. Of these cases, 89 percent reached either a full or partial agreement. Ninety-six percent of families indicated that they were satisfied with the mediation process; 97 percent indicated they were satisfied with the outcome; and 98 percent stated they were satisfied with the mediators.

The Permanency Planning for Children Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) completed an evaluation of the child protection mediation program in 2004. The evaluation report, which covers cases referred to mediation from January 1, 2002 to September 30, 2002, revealed that mediated cases reached adjudication, disposition, and permanency (case closure) significantly faster than cases processed without the benefit of mediation. The following findings of the NCJFCJ were reproduced in the Family Court's 2004 Annual Report [DC-04-01]:

  • Faster Adjudication. Cases receiving early mediation reached adjudication more than one month sooner than unmediated cases. (Early mediation cases were adjudicated on average within 49 days of the initial hearing, as compared to an average of 86 days for unmediated cases.)
  • Faster Disposition. Early mediation cases reached disposition on average more than two months sooner than unmediated cases. (Early mediation cases reached disposition an average of 69 days after the initial hearing; cases receiving no mediation reached disposition an average of 132 days after the initial hearing.)
  • Faster Case Closure. Early mediation cases reached case closure one and one-half months sooner than unmediated cases. (Early mediation cases reached closure on average within seven months after the initial hearing. Cases not mediated reached closure an average of 8.6 months after the initial hearing.)
  • Settlement Rates. Results showed that 93 percent of all cases entering mediation resulted in either a full or partial settlement. Cases reaching full settlement - agreement on both the case plan and stipulation - represented 54 percent of the cases mediated. Cases reaching partial settlement - an agreement on either a case plan or stipulation but not both - represented 39 percent of the cases mediated. Only seven percent of mediated cases resulted in no settlement.
  • Recidivism Rate. Parties participating in mediation were far less likely to return to court within 12 months after the case closed than parties not participating in mediation. Only seven percent of mediated cases returned to court after closure with a new allegation of neglect, while 21 percent of unmediated cases returned to court with a new allegation of neglect after closure of the previous case.

The addition of staff mediators has been critical to the success of the program. The program now has a total of six staff mediators in addition to volunteer mediators. This additional staff has eliminated the delay in scheduling mediations within 30 days of referral.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Evaluation
Evaluation: Pilot Projects

Benchmark Permanency Hearings

The District of Columbia has instituted Benchmark Permanency Hearings in one judge's courtroom with plans to expand the program to at least one other courtroom. These hearings are designed for older children in foster care who are receiving independent living services. At these hearings, the child, supportive adults identified by the child, and the judge meet to discuss the child's future educational and career goals and help develop a plan to meet those goals.

Overall, the process has been well received. The Council for Court Excellence conducted an informal evaluation, which consisted of hearing observations and interviews of 25 GALs involved in the process. Feedback indicates that the program has made a positive difference, with some difficulty getting the public school system to cooperate. Renewed efforts are being made to engage the school system. A formal evaluation of the process is scheduled for late 2005.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Model Courts and Pilot Projects

CCAN Office

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect (CCAN) Office continues to sponsor numerous training opportunities. CCAN continued its Brown Bag Luncheon Training Forums on a regular basis. These forums are 60- to 90-minute lectures and discussions featuring local CCAN professionals and scholars. During 2004, a variety of topics were covered, including the Family Treatment Court, guardianship, CASA, post-adoption resources, youth forensics, adoption training, TPR prosecution, new abuse and neglect rules, and attorney practice standards. Topics being covered in 2005 include the District of Columbia Education Scholarship Program; drafting medical and mental health authorizations that are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and local law; attorney vouchers and billing; child support for children in the neglect system; mental health services for foster children; CCAN investigation and Child and Family Services Agency diligent search; family team meetings; mental health law; standby guardianship law; the foster parent advocacy center and the role of the foster parent in court; and sexually active youth.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

Parent Handbooks

The CCAN office, using CIP funds, developed parent handbooks in English and Spanish [DC-04-02] explaining the court process in abuse and neglect cases. The handbooks are being distributed at the first hearing of each case or through the CCAN Office.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

Data Integration

The Family Court is participating in data integration with the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), as reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. During 2004, the IT Division assisted in the design and configuration of the Family Court Central Intake Center (CIC), providing the capability to initiate cases, docket filings, receipts for payments, and customer service for the Family Court in a single location. As part of the CIC implementation, additional IJIS capabilities such as high volume/batch scanning and multi-tiered workflow were put in place. Multi-tiered workflow was designed to integrate additional quality assurance measures into the case management process to reduce errors and improve overall data quality.

The Court continues to refine existing electronic interfaces with CFSA, the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (DYRS), the Office of Attorney General (OAG), and the Pre-Trial Services Agency. To date, the Court sends scheduling and disposition data for child abuse and neglect cases to CFSA. In addition, the Court publishes data, including judicial assignments and legal case dockets via the JUSTIS system, to the Pre-Trial Services Agency, DYRS, and OAG. Leveraging JUSTIS, the Family Court has participated in the identification of additional requirements for electronic data exchange with the Metropolitan Police Department, the Public Defender Service, and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

To improve its compliance with the One Family One Judge mandate, the Family Court, with assistance from the IT Division, undertook the task of consolidating thousands of individual electronic identifications that were a product of the past Legacy case management systems. In December 2004, the Family Court completed the task of identity consolidation with data converted from Legacy systems and now has established procedures for ongoing operations to ensure that it maintains the overall integrity of new data entered into the system. The processes and procedures established by the Family Court for identity consolidation are serving as a model for other court divisions.

In 2004, the Court created the Performance Measures Workgroup. The Workgroup is comprised of representatives from the Family Court, the IJIS Project Team, the IT Division, and the vendor team that designed the Court's case management system. The group meets regularly to validate the accuracy of reports developed to allow the Court to measure its performance. These reports capture and monitor case events in abuse and neglect cases for compliance with ASFA and for reporting performance under the Family Court Act of 2001. The Workgroup reviewed 21 reports, and validated and accepted 18 of them. Six of the reports are timeline reports that calculate, in days, the time elapsing between events in abuse and neglect cases. The reports calculate the time children are removed from the home or a petition is filed to the trial/stipulation, disposition hearing, or permanency hearing. One report summarizes Family Court case activity by noting the changes in filings and dispositions between two designated periods for Family Court case types. The remainder of the reports summarize abuse and neglect data by types of hearings held, current permanency goals for children under court supervision, post-disposition cases by reason for closure, the age distribution of children in abuse and neglect cases, termination of parental rights motion tracking, and the return to foster care after a permanency goal has been reached.

To ensure all Court users of the IJIS system can operate the system efficiently, the IT Division performed automated stress testing on the IJIS system and related infrastructure. Following an iterative process where upgrades and modifications were made to the system following each test, the Court was able to achieve its goal of supporting 1000 concurrent users with average transaction response times of two to three seconds. The Court is planning to perform additional automated stress testing in the future. In addition to stress testing, the IT Division installed monitoring software to regularly measure and report user response times for average transactions. This software provides the Court with a mechanism to identify performance issues more rapidly and apply modifications to alleviate the identified issues. It also allows the IT Division to replicate the end user experience while using the system.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Information Sharing

Legislation and Court Rules

In 2005, the District of Columbia passed legislation that changes the time period between removal and the first hearing in abuse and neglect cases from 24 hours to 72 hours. The purpose of the 72 hours is to provide the agency with enough time to convene a family team meeting. The guardian ad litem must still be appointed within 24 hours of removal, thus ensuring that the GAL is able to participate in the family team meeting.

The District of Columbia Adoption Court Rules are currently being revised by a committee chaired by Magistrate Judge Karen Howze, and including Judges Ronna Beck and Nan Shuker, Attorney Advisor Despina Belle-Isle, representatives from CFSA and OAG, and private adoption practitioners. The new Adoption Court Rules should be completed by the end of 2005. The Rules are aimed at clarifying and simplifying the current procedure and formalizing some aspects of the adoption litigation process.

The committee has also begun drafting new Guardianship Rules. Current practice is dictated by the statute and administrative order. The new Guardianship Rules will clarify, expand, and simplify the current procedure, and formalize much of the guardianship process. Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Reassessment

The CIP reassessment is being undertaken by the Family Court, in conjunction with the Court's Research and Development Division. In addition to primary data collection, the Family Court is utilizing data collected by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Council for Court Excellence [DC-04-03], and the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law to assemble its reassessment report. The Family Court is currently writing the final report, which is expected to be completed during the summer of 2005.

On the basis of the report, the CIP Advisory Committee will define areas that need improvement and make recommendations to the Family Court.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

The District of Columbia participated in the Child and Family Services Review in 2001. The Court Improvement Project Director, as well as other members of the Family Court staff, participated in the review. Although the Family Court did not have much involvement in Program Improvement Plan (PIP) development, it is assisting with PIP implementation, mostly in the area of data integration.

The next review is scheduled for January 2006 and the CIP will be working collaboratively to assist with the process.
Child and Family Services Review




Florida


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http://www.flcourts.org/osca/divisions/family/ocimain.html

Office of Court Improvement and the Family Court Initiative

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Dependency Court Improvement Program (DCIP) and the Family Court Initiative were combined to form the Office of Court Improvement (OCI) in 2002. Court committees working on dependency issues and family court issues were also combined to form the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court.

Chief Justice Barbara J. Pariente charged the 2004-2006 Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court with the following six tasks:

  • Develop methods to make Family Court proceedings more understandable to children and families.
  • Develop outreach strategies to inform stakeholders about the Unified Family Court.
  • Make recommendations to the Supreme Court for further implementation of the Unified Family Court.
  • Design improved case management practices for case types that are under a Unified Family Court jurisdiction.
  • Describe the successful composition of a Family Court Division and develop recommended guidelines for resources.
  • Develop course instruction guidelines that focus on specific competencies various professionals need to possess to perform their respective roles within the Unified Family Court, and distribute those guidelines to other stakeholder groups responsible for developing educational curricula for professionals who work in or with Unified Family Courts.

To begin implementation of these goals, the Steering Committee is developing a user-friendly brochure explaining each case type, including dependency. The Department of Children and Families has provided the Steering Committee with a brochure it gives to parents during investigations. The Dependency-Delinquency Subcommittee is currently creating a brochure to provide to children and families when they come to court. The brochure is scheduled to be completed during the summer of 2005.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

Unified Family Court

The Unified Family Court Pilot in the Sixth Judicial Circuit has been described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. The Unified Family Court utilizes dependency and delinquency cases as the root case to identify families in other Divisions. The Sixth Judicial Circuit received start-up funds from the Florida Legislature to implement a Unified Family Court Pilot and has sustained it without continued funding. The Sixth Judicial Circuit serves as a model for other circuits in implementation of Unified Family Court guiding principles and essential elements.

The Office of Court Improvement continues to collaborate with the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court to arrange for judges from each Circuit to visit the Sixth Judicial Circuit's Unified Family Court hearings. During these visits, judges observe court proceedings and meet with the Circuit judges who preside over Unified Family Court dockets. Each of the 20 judicial Circuits has developed a Unified Family Court. The Circuits have submitted orders to the Florida Supreme Court identifying their court structures and processes. The level of implementation, however, is not uniform. The Sixth Judicial Circuit, therefore, continues to serve as a model of a more fully developed Unified Family Court.

During 2004, the Center for Policy Research initiated a multi-site evaluation of court systems using innovative approaches in dealing with families who have multiple pending cases. The Center for Policy Research selected Pinellas County, which is part of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, as one of its study sites. The research is currently underway and a report is scheduled to be released during the summer or fall of 2005.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Evaluation
Evaluation: Pilot Projects

Dependency Court Technology Enhancement

Florida does not currently have a statewide dependency court data management system, a problem that precludes the systematic collection and reporting of information. Data are managed in a patchwork of practices that vary widely across the state.

The Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) began the process of developing a relational database system (the Judicial Case Management Information System, or JCMIS) that would assist child abuse and neglect (dependency) courts with case processing. The current system was developed in Paradox by OSCA Information Systems Services (ISS) staff, with plans to migrate onto an Oracle or SQL database platform so that it could ultimately be web enabled. The OSCA was awarded SANCA-MIS funds to partner with Miami-Dade County to expand JCMIS and convert it to a web-based application.

The major goal of the Florida SANCA-MIS Project is to measure the efficacy of judicial case flow management and further the safety and permanency for children. To accomplish this, OSCA and Miami-Dade will enhance the JCMIS application to include data elements that promote quality case processing (including attention to educational, physical and mental health assessments and services), as well as tracking the ASFA time frames. Because JCMIS data will be available in a central database, the OSCA will be able to monitor local improvement initiatives while analyzing court processing from a statewide perspective. The Project Management Team will be able to approach court improvement from a micro (local circuit) and a macro (statewide) perspective, ensuring that child safety, permanency, and well-being are addressed as part of a coordinated state and local effort. A critical component of this goal is to ensure that judicial case managers have access to the data management tools they need to effectively manage their judicial caseloads. These individuals will help drive local improvement initiatives and are the primary system users.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) approached the Office of Court Improvement to discuss utilizing JCMIS to ensure that federally required language appears in permanency orders. After learning more about the SANCA-MIS initiative, DCF agreed to partner with OCI to develop the 'forms module' of JCMIS. DCF resources (more than $285,000 to support programming by an outside vendor and .NET training costs) have funded the beginning phases of this module.

An added benefit of developing the forms module was to establish the framework for programming the rest of JCMIS. An outside vendor, Infusion, helped to develop the initial forms module and the framework for the case management component of JCMIS. Infusion finished its work on the project in September 2004. Progress on JCMIS continues. With additional training, ISS staff from the Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) and Miami-Dade County has been able to complete much of the remaining programming without having to significantly rely on the outside vendor. This will provide considerable cost savings.

One advantage of JCMIS will be its ability to generate automated, individualized court orders. There are a total of eight forms currently programmed into JCMIS. Incorporating required data elements, adding functionality, developing report modules, improving 'user friendliness,' and ensuring that data flow between the case management and forms modules are the primary focuses of the ISS staff at OSCA. An Order on Judicial Review and on Permanency [FL-04-01] is available for review. In addition to making enhancements to the current eight forms, ISS staff is working to incorporate a total of 35 forms into the system.

In developing JCMIS, the Office of the State Courts Administrator is collaborating with the Department of Children and Families to exchange data between JCMIS and the Department's information system. Many of the fields in JCMIS will be populated through a data exchange with the Department.
Technology
Technology: Computerized Scheduling and Orders
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Survey Results

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Florida DCIP completed a survey of the five Florida District Courts of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court, collecting data to assess the management and processing of dependency appeals. The OCI analyzed the data and presented the results to the Appellate Courts Performance and Accountability Board to develop an action plan. The Board was required to delay work on the project due to changes in Florida's Constitution that have prioritized court budget issues.

A workshop at the 2004 Dependency Court Improvement Summit discussed the appellate process for dependency cases. A judge from each of Florida's five District Courts of Appeal participated in the panel presentation. Data from the appellate survey were used to shape the learning objectives. As part of its strategic planning for the coming fiscal year, the Office of Court Improvement is considering how to proceed with this project.
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals

Legislation

During the most recent session, the Florida Legislature amended the Florida Statutes as follows:

  • Section 39.0016: Requires the Department of Children and Families to enter into agreements with the Department of Education to provide educational access to children known to the Department for the purpose of facilitating the delivery of services or programs to children known to the Department. It also requires the Department of Children and Families to enter into agreements with district school boards or other local educational entities regarding education and related services for children known to the Department who are of school age and children known to the Department who are younger than school age but who would otherwise qualify for services from the district school board. The statute mandates several specific requirements of the agreements.
  • Section 39.2021: Permits any person or organization to petition the court for an order making Department of Children and Families records pertaining to investigations public. The statute specifies factors to be considered by the court in making its decision. The statute separately provides for situations involving serious bodily injury to a child.
  • Section 39.701: Requires that a judicial review hearing be held, among other times, within 90 days after a child's 17th birthday and permits the court to review the status of the child more frequently during the year prior to the child's 18th birthday. In addition to other information provided to the court, the foster parent, legal custodian, Guardian ad Litem, and the child are required to be given the opportunity to address the court with any information relevant to the child's best interest, particularly as it relates to the provision of independent living transition services. The Department of Children and Families is required to provide in its judicial review social study report to the court written verification that the child has been provided with statutorily enumerated information. The Department is also required to provide the court, at the first judicial review hearing held after the child's 17th birthday, with an updated case plan that includes specific information related to independent living services that have been provided since the child's 13th birthday, or since the date the child came into foster care, whichever came later. The court is given the power to hold the Department in contempt if the Department has not complied with its obligations. The court and citizen review panels are required to determine for children who have reached 13 years of age, but are not yet 18 years of age, the adequacy of the children's preparation for adulthood and independent living.
  • Section 39.812(4): Requires that when a licensed foster parent or court-ordered custodian has applied to adopt a child who has resided with the foster parent or custodian for at least 6 months and who has previously been permanently committed to the legal custody of the Department and the Department does not grant the application to adopt, the Department may not, in the absence of a prior court order authorizing it to do so, remove the child from the foster home or custodian, except when: a) there is probable cause to believe that the child is at imminent risk of abuse or neglect; b) thirty days have expired following written notice to the foster parent or custodian of the denial of the application to adopt, within which period no formal challenge of the department's decision has been filed; or c) the foster parent or custodian agrees to the child's removal.

The Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure were amended to reflect technical amendments and several changes in the law. In addition, new Rule 8.257 on General Magistrates was adopted by the Supreme Court on January 27, 2005. Rule 8.257 provides for the use of general magistrates and sets forth the procedures to be used in referring a case to a general magistrate. The Rule also provides for the filing of exceptions to the magistrate's report.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Training Initiatives/Materials

The Office of Court Improvement and the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (FCC) created a second volume to Florida's Family Court Toolkit. This volume addresses the consolidation and coordination of cases, judicial access to court records, and the one family-one judge or one family-one team approaches to Unified Family Court. The Toolkit also contains case management strategies for addressing the disagreements that can arise when coordinating cases. The toolkits have served as helpful guides and resources to judges, case managers, and attorneys in dependency and other family court proceedings. The toolkit is available online at http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/bin/toolkit2.pdf.

The Office of Court Improvement sponsored a Unified Family Court conference in October 2004. The theme of the conference was A Vision Without Division: The Key to Serving Families and Children in the Court. The conference focused on how judges and other court personnel can effectively meet the judicial needs of all children and families involved in the court system. A half-day institute addressed dependency issues. In addition, the Office of Court Improvement created a video entitled 'A Crisis Carol' [FL-04-01]. This video, which was shown at the conference, illustrated a family involved in dependency, domestic violence, and divorce issues to feature the use and value of the Unified Family Court model. The DVD has since been shown at the 2004 Dependency Court Improvement Summit and a national conference on juvenile justice.

The Office of Court Improvement updated the Dependency Benchbook in March 2005 and produced its annual publication of Chapter 39, Florida Statutes [FL-05-02], which covers dependency proceedings. The updated Dependency Benchbook [FL-05-01] is available online at http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/bin/benchbook.pdf.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training

Reassessment

The Office of Court Improvement provided a detailed plan for the reassessment in its Strategic Plan. The reassessment is progressing according to the Strategic Plan. The Office of Court Improvement has conducted nine site visits, which have included case reviews, interviews with judges, case managers, and clerks, and reviews of docketing practices. It selected the nine counties to maximize variation in geography, population size, and availability of judicial resources. The Office of Court Improvement is currently conducting data analysis and addressing the specific requirements of the reassessment, and will develop recommendations and an action plan as a result of its findings. The reassessment will be completed by August 31, 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Florida participated in the Child and Family Services Review during 2002. The Office of Court Improvement staff participated in Florida's statewide assessment, but was not part of the onsite review team.

The Florida Department of Children and Families is primarily responsible for implementation of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The Department of Children and Families provided drafts of the PIP to the Office of Court Improvement staff for input on its development. The Office of Court Improvement has been consistently involved with the Department of Children and Families to ensure that necessary steps are taken in the court system to accomplish the PIP goals and tasks. The Office of Court Improvement is a member of the Department's Child Protection Practice Improvement Team (CPPIT), which focuses on quality assurance and oversees many of the PIP implementation activities. For the 2004 Dependency Court Improvement Summit, the Office of Court Improvement and the Department of Children and Families jointly planned and facilitated workshops that focused specifically on PIP implementation. The workshops addressed visitation improvement and case plan improvement.
Child and Family Services Review




Georgia


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http://www.state.ga.us/courts/supreme/cpp

Georgia Model Courts Project

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Georgia Child Placement Project (CPP) provided funding for a Model Courts Project in various counties and worked in partnership with the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges. The Administrative Office of the Courts is now supporting the Model Courts Project with state funds, which continues as a joint project of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the Child Placement Project.

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Georgia Child Placement Project (CPP) provided funding for a Model Courts Project in various counties and worked in partnership with the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is now supporting the Model Courts Project with state funds, which continues as a joint project of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the CPP. During 2004, the judicial leaders of the Project decided to change the name from "Model Courts Project" to the 'Court Improvement Initiative' to reflect the ongoing journey of court improvement.

The Court Improvement Initiative works with 12 sites to implement the Resource Guidelines. The Initiative specifically works with the judges in each site to convene juvenile court staff and related agencies for improvement of court procedures and implementation of "best practices." It offers training, referrals to other programs, and hands-on assistance. During 2004, the Court Improvement Initiative produced The Promise of Permanency: A Report from the Permanency Options Workgroup of the Model Courts Project [GA-04-02]. Some of the topics addressed in this publication include permanency options, guardianships under Georgia law as a permanency option, another planned permanent living arrangement, considerations before moving from adoption as a preferred permanency option, and the presumptive order of preference for permanency options. This publication can be found at the CPP website, www.childplacementproject.org, under Court Improvement Initiative.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks

"Snapshot" of Court Performance in Child Welfare Cases

As noted in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CPP, with the support of the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic, conducted case reviews and observations in different counties over the past few summers to assess the effect of court improvement efforts. During the summer of 2004, the CPP supported another study to determine the level of improvement in the adjudication of child welfare cases. The study was similar to previous ones: case reviews and observations were conducted in six counties. In addition, eleven courts did 'self reviews,' i.e., reviewed 10 cases that were at least one year old and chosen at random by the CPP. The clerks in these courts reported that the self reviews were helpful and each participating court received $300 for their time and effort in conducting the reviews. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges analyzed the data and the final report, A Snapshot of Juvenile Court Performance in Child Deprivation Cases [GA-05-01], is now available on the CPP website.
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Evaluation
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Georgia SANCA Grant/Case Plan Reporting System

The Georgia AOC is a recipient of the Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts in America - Management Information Systems Project (SANCA - MIS) grant. The Georgia AOC is receiving $200,000 and assistance from the National Technical Assistance Team composed of staff from the American Bar Association, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to modify the existing Case Plan Reporting System (CPRS). The modifications will support reporting on the management of civil child abuse and neglect cases. The objectives of the grant are to enable the selected sites to develop automated systems that meet the functional standards for juvenile court case management systems as defined in the NCSC standards and to produce reports to track the Packard National Performance Measures for child abuse and neglect cases.

As reported extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Georgia launched the CPRS as a web-based tool. The CPRS was designed for the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and the Juvenile Courts to better manage case planning specifically for families with children in foster care. The cost of the system and ongoing maintenance is shared between the courts and DFCS. This system serves case managers, supervisors and DFCS management, juvenile judges, attorneys, CASA, community citizen review panel members, medical service providers, and foster parents. In addition to its shared database with DFCS, CPRS is the common system among the Georgia Juvenile Courts. The decentralized court structure in Georgia does not provide for a statewide Court Management System (CMS). Therefore, CPRS plays a critical role at the state level for the courts. All of Georgia's 159 counties use CPRS. The website for the CPRS is located at http://cprs.state.ga.us.

CPRS is a cooperative project between the Georgia AOC, DCFS, and the Georgia Technology Authority. The Georgia Court Automation Commission is the policy group governing automation in the judicial branch. The Georgia Technology Authority manages the hardware, infrastructure, operations, and applications, i.e., CPRS and others. CPRS runs on two Sun database servers and two Sun network servers. Each courthouse is networked and users access the system via the Internet. The Department of Human Services maintains the physical network used by CPRS.

CPRS is a top-down view of the status of a foster care case. Significant case history dates are tracked in the system, including the removal date, date of placement authorization, date of the initial 30-day case plan, date ranges of current and former placements, court order dates throughout the life of the case, and TPR filing dates.

CPRS is geared toward use by judges and caseworkers. Court orders are produced by CPRS and handed out in court, but not saved in the system. The case plan, however, is entered by the caseworker and is saved. If the plan is not approved, the judge must check the appropriate box and explain why, returning the case plan to the caseworker for modifications. Judges can also tweak a case plan from the bench and print out a final approved plan to give to the parties.

While the original CPRS system captured much of the data needed for reporting, CPRS is not a case management system. The original application lacked many details that would be needed for reporting on the Packard National Performance measures. The SANCA-MIS project is designed to add as many of these detailed data elements as practical, and to utilize the AFCARS data from the DFCS agency database for additional performance measures.

As of the date of the second project review by the National Technical Assistance Team, Georgia was nearing completion of programming. During Phase I, the Georgia team developed a detailed plan for all three phases of the project. Business requirements were prepared for CPRS modifications to generate 18 performance measures. The requirements identified approximately 40 new fields to be added to CPRS. The Georgia team compared the business requirements for the application with the high level workflows they prepared to determine how to modify CPRS and on which screens to place the new data fields.

They added three main types of information: Hearings, Discharge to Permanency, and Due Process. Excluding reporting functionality, five screens were modified and three new screens were developed. The development team received feedback from the judges who will pilot it and plan to make some modifications based on this feedback. The initial user acceptance testing was conducted from mid-March until the end of April. Programming revisions were made after that test. Dekalb County, the pilot site, began using the system on July 27, 2005.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
Technology: Internet Development

Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic

The Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic, a children's policy clinic, was opened at the Emory University School of Law in March 2001. Its progress and activities have been discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. The Clinic was started with the technical assistance of the CPP. The Clinic trains law students to handle deprivation cases, sponsors interns, and develops post-graduate fellowships for research and advocacy. Extensive information about the activities and programs of the Clinic, as well as links to other related sites, can be found at www.childwelfare.net.

The Clinic has obtained foundation funding for the interns, but the CPP still provides technical support and works on joint projects together with the students. Major activities of the Clinic over the past year include student intern projects and placements, legislative bill and budget tracking, and publications. The most recent publication is Georgia's Responsibilities Toward Children in Foster Care: A Reference Manual, which can be found on the Clinic website.

Most recently, the Barton Clinic worked on a bill of rights for foster children. They plan to hold a series of meetings over the summer to begin a public conversation about this topic.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Legal Programs and Clinics

Pro Bono Attorney Project

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CPP, together with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer's Foundation and Atlanta Legal Aid, received $25,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta to launch a pro bono attorney project in two courts. This project consists of recruiting attorneys from the larger firms to take one deprivation case a year and remain with the case through permanency. This project is called 'One Child/One Lawyer' (borrowed from the American Bar Association with permission).

In June 2004, the One Child/One Lawyer Project conducted its first training. There are now over 45 volunteers taking cases. In March 2005, the Project transferred to the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (www.onechildonelawyer.org) which received continuation funding from Hedge Funds Care (www.hedgefundscare.com).
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Legal Programs and Clinics

Office of the Child Advocate

Georgia established the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) in 2000, which has been described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. According to its 2003 - 2004 Annual Report [GA-04-03], the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is an independent ombudsman office "designed to protect the rights of children in state care and to monitor the agencies charged with protecting those children."

Prior Court Improvement Progress Reports also discuss joint initiatives of the OCA and the CPP. Most recently, the CPP supported the OCA by sponsoring legislation to bring Georgia into compliance with CAPTA and tightening the time frames when orders on termination of parental rights cases could be completed. The CPP has partnered with the OCA to provide attorney GAL training around the state. In September 2004 and August 2005, the OCA and CPP sponsored a three-day training for GALs, covering numerous topics such as child development and the effects of abuse and neglect, methamphetamine, medical evaluation of child maltreatment, effective advocacy for children, beginner and advanced trial skills, child welfare agency programs and resources, interviewing child victims and witnesses, safety and case plans, ASFA, handling appeals, case law update, and an overview of the juvenile court deprivation process.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

Trial Manual Updates

During 2004, the CPP finished updates of the following manuals:

  • Working with Child Deprivation Cases in Georgia's Juvenile Courts: A Reference Manual for Department of Family and Children Services Case Managers [GA-04-04].
  • Working with Child Deprivation Cases in Georgia's Juvenile Courts: A Reference Manual for Attorney and Volunteer Guardians Ad Litem [GA-04-05].
  • Working with Child Deprivation Cases in Georgia's Juvenile Courts: A Reference Manual for Special Assistant Attorneys General [GA-04-06].
  • Working with Child Deprivation Cases in Georgia's Juvenile Courts: A Reference Manual for Attorneys Representing Parents [GA-04-07].


These updated manuals can be located at www.childwelfare.net/resources/JuvenileCourtRefManuals/.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Training Materials and Benchbooks

Visitation Centers

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CPP, various churches, and the child welfare agency collaborated to establish visitation centers in six counties. The visitation centers are designed to improve visitation between foster children, their parents, and siblings. Currently, there are 22 centers operating across the state.

In 2004, the First Lady of Georgia partnered with the Presbyterian Church of Greater Atlanta to encourage the creation of additional visitation centers around the state. The Presbyterian Church of Greater Atlanta published a booklet entitled Safe Havens for Children. This booklet, which can be found at www.presbyteryofgreateratl.org/events/Safe%20Havens%20-%20Booklet.pdf, encourages Presbyterian churches to reach out and establish visitation centers. The CPP has worked with the leader of this initiative to help her develop training and provide videos and data for their recruiting message.

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic previously developed a visitation manual [GA-03-02] describing how to establish a visitation center.

The CPP is currently working on a visitation protocol project with Judge Michael Key and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. This work has been presented for feedback at several national conferences and will be published in October 2005 on the CPP website.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Special Waiting Areas and Improved Space

Juvenile Court Clerks Standards Project

In March 2005, the CPP hosted a workshop for Juvenile Court clerks to create a standard for what a civil child abuse and neglect case file should look like. The work product from this meeting is in progress. The CPP is circulating a draft for comments, with plans to publish it in September 2005. In the meantime, the CPP has created a list serv for the clerks to continue the discussion started at the workshop.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Other Training

Online Calendaring for Juvenile Judges

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CPP developed an online calendaring system for juvenile judges dividing their time between circuits and piloted it with one judge working in three circuits. The pilot was successful, and was expanded to include a second judge working in the same three circuits. The online system has benefited the judges by allowing them to have a central calendar that they can access from each county court location, as well as attorneys and agency staff who may view the calendar. Before this online calendar, the judges' secretary was often faxing the calendar to various parties in three different counties. The CPP continues to support this project.
Technology
Technology: Computerized Scheduling and Orders

Cherokee County Juvenile Court Efficiency Project

The CPP is sponsoring an efficiency project in Cherokee County Juvenile Court. This project involved meeting with caseworkers and judges, and looking for ways caseworkers and attorneys could better use their time while waiting to appear in court. The end result was a wireless access point for use of laptops in the waiting room, several phones placed in a conference room, and a scheduling system that shows the court calendar in real time and is displayed on monitors in several spots throughout the courthouse. An evaluation is planned for a later date to determine if these measures are effective.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Scheduling
Treatment of Parties: Special Waiting Areas and Improved Space
New/Innovative Projects

Reassessment

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CPP pulls a select group of case files and reviews them every summer. The most recent results are discussed in 'Snapshot' of Court Performance in Child Welfare Cases. In addition to this staff review, the CPP will use local court clerks to review their own files with CPP instruments and report the results to the CPP for use in Georgia's reassessment.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Georgia participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in July 2001. The CPP Director served on the Steering Committee for the CFSR, participated in case reviews, was interviewed by federal reviewers, and assisted with the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The CPP Director attended all PIP meetings and reports quarterly on several specific action steps involving court-related issues.

Based on its negotiations with the child welfare agency on ways to assist in PIP implementation, the CPP contributed to annual cross-training, shared its annual summer case file review with the agency, added specific measures to the Case Plan Reporting System, and conducted a survey of judges regarding specific barriers for adoption.
Child and Family Services Review




Hawaii


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Statewide Data Management System

The Hawaii State Judiciary has contracted with a vendor to provide a case management system that will encompass all courts and programs. The Family Court component, to include child protection cases, will be part of the second to last module installed. This installation is likely to be five to six years in the future. Once this module is installed, milestone events, such as the point of removal from family homes, hearing dates, etc., will be tracked. Although court improvement funds have been utilized in the past, the Court Improvement Project is not committing any additional funds at this time.

While the new system is being developed and implemented, statewide child welfare services judicial case information is collected in a JUSTIS database, which is an enhanced version of the system used in Maricopa County, Arizona. Each judicial circuit and/or district enters its own information. Access is obtained via a password sign-in and is available statewide within in the Judiciary. The system is maintained by the Information, Technology, and Communications Division (ITCD) of the Court.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Project Visitation

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report, the Court Improvement Project funded Project Visitation to facilitate contacts between siblings placed in different foster care homes. Project Visitation is a joint effort of Volunteer Legal Services Hawaii, the Family Court, and the Department of Human Services. CIP funds were provided this past fiscal year.

Project Visitation now has a supportive affiliation with a local church that provides meeting space for volunteer trainings and a source of volunteers as well. The Project is consolidating its volunteer base to assure that sibling visits will be consistent and frequent. It is also evaluating the viability of expanding the program to other island judicial circuits using court improvement funds.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Special Waiting Areas and Improved Space

Reassessment

In November 2003, Hawaii received technical assistance from the American Bar Association's National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues (Resource Center) to plan the reassessment, draft most assessment instruments and timelines, and formulate strategies for extracting and analyzing accurate, complete data from available sources. A retired Family Court judge and the CIP Project Coordinator conducted the reassessment. Hawaii expects to have its final report completed by June 30, 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Hawaii participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in July 2003. The Court Improvement Project assisted with the onsite review and participated in interviews.

The Department of Human Services led the effort to develop the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The Court Improvement Project participated in meetings and had a representative on the PIP Policy Committee. Midterm meetings are scheduled for August 2005. The CIP also formed a subcommittee called the Court Agency Collaboration for Children of Hawaii (CACCH), which provides a forum for the child welfare agency and the court to discuss and formulate solutions to common issues. The activities of this subcommittee are part of the PIP.
Child and Family Services Review




Idaho


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Model Courts

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report, the Idaho Court Improvement Project (CIP) assisted two counties with efforts to implement model court features. In Ada County, the CIP provided funding for a half-time senior judge position to handle the growing number of child protection cases in the county and to provide statistical information regarding the need for an additional judge to hear child protection cases. Funding for the senior judge position ended in December of 2003. The CIP did not evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot project because there was an unexplained 20 percent decrease in child protection case filings in the county. The CIP Steering Committee concluded that an accurate analysis of the impact of the additional senior judge position would not be possible due to the significant decrease in case filings. Since the senior judge position expired, however, the number of child protection case filings has skyrocketed and is expected to set a record. The county is considering how best to address the increased caseload.

In Bannock County, the pilot project has two distinct parts. Prior to the implementation of the pilot project, the child protection judge in Bannock County heard all cases involving a particular family, creating a de facto Family Court. The funding from the pilot project allowed the child protection court in Bannock County to institutionalize their procedure for case coordination. At the close of the pilot project, the child protection court was able to more efficiently and effectively coordinate cases related to a child protection case.

A second piece of the Bannock County project was onsite drug testing for parents in child protection cases. The drug testing was 'piggybacked' on currently available onsite testing for juvenile cases, allowing for earlier detection, early intervention, and complete reasonable efforts findings. Onsite drug testing ended this year when the funds allocated for onsite drug testing were exhausted. The child protection judge is currently working with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to continue onsite drug testing in child protection cases.

A professor of statistics at Boise State University was contacted to assist in the design of an evaluation for the case coordination and onsite drug testing pilot projects in Bannock County. No statistically based evaluation could be accomplished because ISTARS, Idaho's case management software, has not in the past and does not currently collect sufficient data for comparison and analysis. A new ISTARS module to collect data in child protection cases has been developed and is currently being piloted in three Idaho counties. Statewide roll out of the child protection module is projected for the fall of 2005, see Technology Initiatives.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Representation Issues

During 2005, the Child Protection Committee, Idaho's CIP Steering Committee, will explore issues relating to representation of parties in child protection cases. Issues that will be addressed include the need for minimum training and practice standards for attorneys representing parents, guardians ad litem, and children in child protection cases. Additional topics to be considered include representation of the Department of Health and Welfare in child protection cases, the court's role in developing mandatory standards for and providing oversight to guardian ad litem programs, and a process for institutionalizing training on child protection issues. The initial Committee meeting to discuss these issues will be held in the fall of 2005, at which time the scope of the work and the timeline for its completion will be set.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

Technology Initiatives

As reported in previous Court Improvement Progress Reports, Idaho is adding a Child Protection (CP) module to Idaho's case tracking and management system (ISTARS), to aid in tracking time standards and to improve overall management of child protection cases. In November 2003, Idaho was awarded one of six Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts in America: Management Information Systems (SANCA - MIS) grants. Grant funds are being used to develop key reports that will measure national performance standards which are relevant to child protection practice in Idaho.

As reported in 2004, a SANCA - MIS technical team conducted a site visit. As initially developed, the child protection module was able to provide data for almost all of the nationally recommended performance measures which were developed from the research of the Packard Foundation. Several data elements were added to enable CP-ISTARS to produce most of the remaining Packard Performance Measures. Currently, the CIP Steering Committee, with the assistance of the national technical assistance team, is developing key reports that will provide data on the performance measures and inform future court improvement efforts.

CP-ISTARS is currently being piloted in Bannock, Kootenai, and Nez Perce Counties. Statewide release of the module is projected for the fall of 2005.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

ICWA Training

The CIP Steering Committee hosted three trainings on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) during 2004. The initial training was held in northern Idaho during in the summer of 2004. The second training was held in Boise in October 2004. At the Boise training, the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues provided an ICWA expert who spoke primarily about the interface between the Adoption and Safe Families Act and ICWA. Representatives from several Idaho tribes attended the training and provided very positive evaluations of the presentation. The final ICWA training, which will mirror the Boise training, is scheduled for August 2005 in the southern part of the state. The final ICWA training is part of a tribally-sponsored Indian Child Welfare Conference.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Other Training

Juvenile Rules

As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Idaho passed legislation in 2001 to bring its Child Protection Act into compliance with ASFA. The Rules and Statutes Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the Court Improvement Steering Committee, completed a comprehensive review of Idaho's Child Protective Act, Termination of Parent Child Relationship Act, adoption statutes, and guardianship statutes. Proposed amendments were submitted to the Idaho Legislature and will become law on July 1, 2005.

The Rules and Statutes Subcommittee also completed a comprehensive review of the Idaho Juvenile Rules and will recommend extensive amendments of the Rules to the Idaho Supreme Court in the fall of 2005. The Rules Subcommittee will then review guardianship statutes and propose amendments as appropriate.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Reassessment

Since Idaho did not conduct its initial assessment until 2001, it is not required to complete a reassessment before 2006. Much of the information needed for a reassessment will be generated by the ISTARS child protection module currently under development, see Technology Initiatives.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Members of the Idaho CIP Steering Committee participated extensively in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in May 2003. The CIP Steering Committee provided assistance at the onsite review, as well as participated in case reviews and interviews.

The CIP Steering Committee worked with the Department of Health and Welfare to develop the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The PIP was approved in February 2004. The Department of Health and Welfare identified outcomes that were court related and requested the assistance of the CIP Steering Committee to achieve the required improvement in outcome measures. The Committee discussed the recommendations and voted to work with the Department on all of the issues relating to court performance. The Committee provided training on a number of topics, undertook research on requested topics, and drafted proposed legislation on open adoption at the request of the Department.
Child and Family Services Review




Illinois


To Table of Contents

Evaluation of Adequacy of Representation

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project (CIP) Steering Committee formed a subcommittee to review the adequacy of representation in juvenile court proceedings. The subcommittee distributed a survey to individual circuits to solicit information about the selection process for attorneys appointed to represent children, the rate of compensation for those attorneys, and the amount of special training required before an attorney can be assigned to represent children. Initial data analysis indicated a continuing gap in representation of parties.

To address this gap, the Illinois Court Improvement Project funded the "First and Second Circuit Juvenile Justice Improvement Project," which was overseen by the Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). Through an Advisory Committee, an investigator/researcher explored the quality and amount of legal representation available for children, parents, and agencies involved in juvenile court matters in the First and Second Judicial Circuits of Illinois (southern Illinois). Based upon written surveys, personal interviews, and conference evaluations by various stakeholders that work within the juvenile court system, the Advisory Council determined that there is a need for a law school clinical program addressing the legal needs of the parties involved in juvenile court proceedings. Therefore, the Council recommended that the Southern Illinois University School of Law vigorously pursue the creation of a juvenile law clinical program or at least consider offering a course in juvenile law that includes a internship experience along with classroom study.

In July 2004, SIUC hosted a two-day, grant-supported conference entitled "Working Together: Making It Better." The workshop provided cross-disciplinary training to encourage communication between court and agency personnel. The conference also included sessions aimed at improving the quality of legal representation for children and families involved in juvenile abuse and neglect proceedings. Information was provided to emphasize the importance of fair treatment, notice, and consideration to all parties involved in juvenile abuse and neglect proceedings. The 138 conference attendees included three judges, five medical professionals, 10 prosecuting attorneys, 12 law enforcement officers, 17 defense attorneys, 21 probation officers, and 70 social workers.

The CIP-funded portion of the First and Second Circuit Juvenile Justice Project was completed as of September 30, 2004. The CIP is not providing any additional funding for this Project.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

Statewide Uniform Data Collection and Tracking System

Currently, Illinois is without a statewide juvenile IT system. As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, a portion of Illinois court improvement grant funds has been set aside for the study and development of a statewide uniform data collection and case tracking system for juvenile abuse and neglect cases. The AOIC recently hired a data program specialist to coordinate the planning, development, and implementation of the project.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Reassessment

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has recently completed site work in nine counties for the reassessment. The final report is pending modifications and amendments by the AOIC. Illinois anticipates submitting the report to the Department of Health and Human Services by the June 30, 2005 deadline.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Illinois participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2003. Several members of the CIP staff and judicial advisors to the CIP participated in stakeholder interviews conducted as part of the onsite review.

From December 2003 - February 2004, several members of the AOIC CIP staff participated in the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) workgroups conducted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. As explained to CIP staff, the final reports from each of the workgroups would be combined to form the PIP.

Although the CIP staff has no specific responsibilities for implementation of the PIP, the AOIC will strategically plan for CIP expenditures and activities consistent with the PIP recommendations that impact the judicial branch.
Child and Family Services Review




Indiana


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Indiana

www.in.gov/judiciary/cip

Subgrants

Indiana has used its federal grant funds in large part to provide subgrants to local courts for individual court improvement projects. Current information about the subgrants is posted on the Indiana Court Improvement Project (CIP) website, www.in.gov/judiciary/cip. Funds supported two rounds of subgrants, which were detailed in prior Court Improvement Project Reports. The CIP is currently supporting a third round of grants, which are nearing completion. An update on the status of outstanding projects is detailed below:

Marion Probate Court: The CIP provided funding for a part-time judicial officer to conduct trials in termination of parental rights cases to reduce a backlog of cases. This part-time position has been funded for another 12 months. Termination trials are heard weekly in an effort to get the backlog reduced. Of the approximately 220 cases that were pending when the position was funded, approximately 130 have been resolved.

Allen Superior Court: As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CIP initially awarded grant money to Allen Superior Court for, among other things, development of facilitation prior to the initial/dispositional hearings and Family Group Decision Making conferencing prior to the permanency hearing. In 2003, the Allen Superior Court fully implemented Family Group Decision Making at the six-month review stage of a CHINS case to develop a permanency plan.

As discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIP provided additional funding to the Allen Superior Court to support the continuation of Family Group Decision Making. The Court has funded three full-time positions to focus on generally improving the court process for families referred on abuse and neglect charges. By changing the way the Court addresses issues of abuse and neglect and making these changes a part of the court's policies and procedures, they have ensured that the project activities will continue after grant funding has ended. They have also partnered with other community agencies to provide services and provide a base of funding when CIP grant funding ends. During 2004, the Court provided facilitation in 264 CHINS cases. An evaluation of client satisfaction shows that more than 85% of the participants involved in the process are satisfied. Statistics have been compiled and an effort is being made to compare these cases with non-facilitated cases to determine whether cases were disposed of in a more timely fashion. In addition, the Court implemented Transitional Conferencing for teens transitioning out of foster care and for children experiencing discipline or truancy problems in school. The Court Improvement Project provided funding for training in all types of facilitation.

Tippecanoe Superior Court: As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Tippecanoe Superior Court received funds to develop a pre-hearing facilitation program and establish a resource room to facilitate provision of services. The Court Improvement Project awarded additional funds for continuation of the pre-hearing facilitation program based on the overall success of the program. From January 1, 2004 through October 29, 2004, the Court conducted 50 CHINS mediations resulting in 44 agreements, as well as 10 facilitated case conferences that resulted in seven agreements regarding how to advance the case. The Court has a goal of increasing facilitation/mediation by 30 percent during 2005.

Porter Circuit and Juvenile Court: The Court Improvement Project has provided funds for CHINS facilitation, implementation of a Service Access Center component for CHINS cases, and development of the Porter County Paternity Mediation Clinic (see Porter County Paternity Mediation Clinic). The Community Access Service Center is located in the Juvenile Court. Families meet with a service access staffer immediately after exiting the courtroom, who directly connects them to court-ordered services.

Henry County Family Court Project: With court improvement funds, Henry County has implemented a one judge-one family program to coordinate intense services to high risk, multiple-case families with one or more members experiencing child abuse or neglect, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, criminal probation, or custody disputes.

Four County Family Court Project: Four counties - Bartholomew, Brown Lawrence, and Jackson - have received court improvement funds for a combined nonadversarial dispute resolution program to provide affordable facilitation in custody, CHINS, and termination of parental rights cases. Between August 23 and December 31, 2004, 56 families, with 117 adults and 73 children, received family court programming. All cases referred to the program received facilitation, mediation, or document preparation.


Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Evaluation
Evaluation: Pilot Projects

Indiana Supreme Court Family Court Pilot Project

The Indiana Supreme Court is sponsoring a Family Court Project, which includes implementation of a one judge/one family program. Earlier phases of the Project have been described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports.

The Indiana Legislature approved funding for Phase III of the Project, which began in January 2004 with the implementation of five new Family Courts covering eight counties. There is now a total of 17 Family Courts across the state. Phase III is slated to be complete in December 2005, with plans for additional phases to be developed by the summer of 2005. Additional information regarding the Family Court Pilot Project can be found at www.in.gov/judiciary/programs/familycourt.html.

The Court Improvement Project has provided funds to the Family Court Task Force for distribution to new Family Court grantees. The current funds are divided between Henry Circuit/Superior Court and the Four County Family Court.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Legislation

In 2004, Indiana enacted several pieces of legislation affecting child welfare. Some of these provisions include the following:

  • A child will be considered a CHINS presumptively if that child lives in the same house as another child who is a victim of certain sex offenses; the child lives in the same house as the adult who committed the sex offense; the child needs care, treatment, or rehabilitation the child is not receiving and would not receive without the coercive intervention of the court; and a caseworker assigned to the child places the child in informal adjustment.
  • Law enforcement must review entries made to the missing children's clearinghouse within 60 days after the review required by National Crime Information Center.
  • A statewide child fatality team was created with 13 members to investigate child fatalities in counties without local review teams or upon request.
  • If the court is considering placement outside the home as a disposition or permanency plan, the agency or probation officer must conduct a criminal history check of each person residing in the potential placement. Placement will not be permitted if any person residing there has committed a substantiated act of child abuse or neglect or certain felonies.

Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Judicial Technology and Automation Committee

The Court Improvement Project is supporting the work of the Indiana Judicial Technology and Automation Committee (JTAC) Project, with $50,000 per year for three years. These funds are used primarily for software licensing costs and certain related products. With Computer Associates (CA) as its partner, the JTAC Project is proceeding well with the implementation of the Indiana Statewide Case Management System (CMS). From the beginning, the JTAC Project planned to incorporate CHINS case management into the CMS. Several individuals knowledgeable about juvenile cases are providing feedback on the design. One team is standardizing the entries used in the CMS. Beyond technical issues, judicial policies on the handling and access of CHINS cases still need to be addressed.

The CMS is constructed in modules referred to as 'releases.' Each release provides specific targeted functionality, such a criminal case processing. The juvenile functions of the CMS are planned for the third release. Once the release is installed, the juvenile case functionality will be available for use by the counties. While the statewide system is being developed, several counties have their own tracking system. The most widely used system for counties is Quest.

The CMS development is currently on hold to conduct problem solving and personnel adjustment.
Technology
Technology: Case Management and Tracking Systems

Reassessment

The Court Improvement Project Executive Committee selected a contractor to conduct Indiana's reassessment, who started work on the reassessment in March 2004. The initial assessment is being used as the focal point for the reassessment. The original counties are being reviewed together with a random sampling of other counties. The goals set forth in the initial assessment are being evaluated to determine if courts have improved their system for children in care as a result of the CIP.

An Advisory Committee of stakeholders in child welfare was formed to assist in making policy decisions. The contractor distributed a survey about court practices to juvenile court judges and the results are currently being analyzed. Court file reviews and court observations will be conducted by the end of March 2005. The contractor will survey other groups, including child welfare agency administrators and case workers, CASAs, service providers, attorneys, and foster parents. The reassessment will be complete by June 1, 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Indiana participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in August 2001. The Court Improvement Project was part of the statewide review team, but did not participate in case reviews or provide written materials or legal staff to assist. The Department of Health and Human Services approved the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) in October 2002.

The CIP administrator, who is a program attorney for the Indiana Judicial Center, is responsible for the training of juvenile court judicial officers. In June 2004, the CIP funded a collaborative training for stakeholders in the child welfare system, including judges, case managers, CASAs, county attorneys, and administrators. The level of CIP involvement was a topic of this conference, at which the state agency reported on the status of the PIP. The final PIP report was issued in August 2004.

Overall, when the court took the initiative to involve the agency, the agency responded positively, but the agency did not reach out to the court often regarding PIP implementation. Thus, the court was not integrally involved in the agency's activities to implement the PIP. There were no regular meetings involving both court and agency staff. The Court Improvement Project is currently unaware of plans for the next round of reviews.
Child and Family Services Review




Iowa


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http://www.judicial.state.ia.us/families/improvement.asp

Polk County Model Court Project

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Iowa Court Improvement Project (CIP) is collaborating in the development of the Model Court Project of Polk County, with the Polk County Model Court Project Team and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. The CIP Director continues to be a member of the Polk County Model Court Project Team. The Model Court, with the assistance of the CIP, focused on the following projects over the past year:

  • A Judge's Survival Guide, loosely based on the Missouri Benchcards and developed through a CIP initiative, will include local court practices, essential checklists, key code citations, key federal requirements, model orders, and services available to families involved with the courts. This joint resource will be individualized to specific local court jurisdictions, starting with the Model Court. The projected completion date for the Guide is December 30, 2005. The Guide will then be offered to other jurisdictions over the next year.
  • Monthly 'lunch and learn' multidisciplinary trainings are offered with an agenda developed six months at a time. Topics include ex parte communication, ethics issues in Juvenile Court, transition issues for youth aging out of the system, behavior in the courtroom, and infant mental health issues in child welfare cases. Participants can obtain CLEs and CEUs.
  • Along with sites in Mississippi and Texas, the Polk County Model Court will pilot the Court Teams for Change Project with Zero to Three to reduce the impact of domestic violence and substance abuse on children. The Project includes development of multidisciplinary Court Teams to raise awareness, increase knowledge and skills, and change practice regarding the needs of maltreated infants, toddlers, and their families involved in the child welfare system, especially focusing on those children and families where domestic violence and substance abuse are present.
  • Model court orders for delinquency proceedings have been developed and reviewed by the Model Court Team. The orders are currently pending approval by the Fifth Judicial District. Upon approval, the model court orders will be made available for use (but will not be required) by judges statewide to assure consistency with federal guidelines and requirements.

Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders
New/Innovative Projects

Lyle and Joan Middleton Children's Rights Center

The Iowa Court Improvement Project has assisted with the development of the Lyle and Joan Middleton Children's Rights Center at Drake University. This partnership has been described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports.

Over the past year, the CIP and the Children's Rights Center provided training for attorneys that included the following:

  • Annual Issues in Juvenile Justice. This training focused on basic Juvenile Court 101 training. The CIP coordinated the planning, judges provided the training, and Drake University provided the onsite coordination.
  • Concurrent Planning Training. This training was funded by Fostering Results, was planned by the Children's Rights Center staff, and the CIP Director was one of two presenters.
  • Other Center Training. The CIP has provided funding for scholarships and expenses to allow judges to attend other Juvenile Court training sponsored by the Children's Rights Center, including Interdisciplinary Topics in Child Welfare: What Lawyers, Educators and Social Workers Should Know.

More information about the work of the Children's Rights Center can be found at http://www.middleton.drake.edu/.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Legal Programs and Clinics
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training

Mediation Pilot Project

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Iowa Court Improvement Project received an Adoption Opportunities Grant of $600,000 for a three-year child welfare Mediation Pilot Project. This Project started in October 1, 2000 and was scheduled to end on September 30, 2003. However, the Project was extended for nine months, and was completed on June 30, 2004.

The National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice and the Iowa CIP evaluated the Mediation Pilot Project during the summer of 2004. The final report was issued in September 2004, entitled Expedited Permanency Through Community Decision-Making [IA-04-01]. Some of the conclusions reached include the following:

  • Community Collaboration. The initial level of enthusiasm and collaboration was strong at the beginning of the Project and remained strong throughout. '[W]e did not find a great deal of change in community team members' reports of agency interactions, though some strengthening in interaction with more peripheral agencies was noted over time.'
  • Consumer Satisfaction. Consumer satisfaction among stakeholders was high. 'The satisfaction surveys . . . imply that participants were satisfied with the results of the services (97%) and they also felt these services resulted in a cost and time savings.'
  • Case Specific Data. Variation in target populations, participant risk factors, and process measures in the six sites, as well as missing data and small numbers of cases in some counties, compromised results. However, "[i]f permanency includes the options of remaining in the child's home, pre-adoptive and adoptive placements, and guardianships, then 82% of the children who were referred for services in this project received permanency."

Most of the mediation sites continue to operate, but to a significantly reduced level due to a lack of funding.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Evaluation
Evaluation: Pilot Projects

Reassessment

The Iowa reassessment entails modification of the methods used in the original assessment. Nine counties studied in the original assessment were reassessed. The CIP wrote individual county reports and presented findings to each Chief Judge and other interested parties. The CIP staff offered to return to each county to provide technical assistance based on areas of need identified in the reassessment.

The CIP prepared a statewide report for submission to the Children's Bureau, addressing common strengths and weaknesses across sites. The statewide report was used at the CIP annual retreat to develop the new Strategic Plan. Common areas of need identified in the report include inadequate data tracking, inconsistency in the quality of representation, inconsistency in the quality of hearings across counties, and a lack of clarity in the notice and opportunity to be heard process. As part of the Strategic Plan, task forces have been formed to address these issues during the 2005 - 2006 project year. In addition, a data council was formed to improve data quality and reports.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Iowa participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in May 2003. The Court Improvement Project Director served on the Oversight Committee of the Child and Family Services Review Preparation Team. Judges and Juvenile Court Services participated in surveys regarding the issues covered in the CFSR and participated in several focus groups. In addition, two judges, the CIP Director, and a Juvenile Court Officer (staff for delinquency cases) served on the state review team. The CIP offered legal assistance to review laws, provide Juvenile Court Rules of Procedure, and draft part of the statewide assessment.

The CIP served on the Central Program Improvement Plan (PIP) Committee. There were specific sections devoted to court improvement issues, such as addressing the court's role in preserving connections or in providing an opportunity to be heard. However, the state Department of Human Services internally handled many of the issues related to federal outcomes, e.g., reentry rates.
Child and Family Services Review




Kansas


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CINC Information Management System/Full Court Case Management System

As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Kansas Court Improvement Project assisted the Sedgwick County Permanency Coordinating Council with the development of the Child in Need of Care (CINC) Information Management System. A final version of the System is running in three judicial districts. Although the System has been finalized, it has not been implemented in additional courts because the judicial branch is currently undergoing the implementation of the Full Court Case Management System. The Full Court Case Management System will provide for desktop review of case files and will allow users to compile various statistical data.

Kansas has contracted with Justice Systems Inc. to develop the CINC section of the statewide Full Court System. Kansas has not developed performance measures based on the Packard Measures. The CINC Full Court Committee developed guidelines based on federal and state laws. For example, the module will track Reasonable Efforts and Contrary to the Welfare findings and all timelines will be coded in the system to alert judges of needed hearings. The guidelines are being used to develop reports within the CINC section of the Full Court System. The Beta version is scheduled to be complete in July 2005. Testing will begin in September 2005 in several pilot sites. The goal is to have the CINC Full Court System statewide by the beginning of 2006.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Mediation Pilot Projects

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project has assisted the Sedgwick County Court in the development of a juvenile mediation pilot project. Sedgwick County has the highest number of children in care. The Project is currently mediating cases prior to the temporary custody hearing and adjudication hearing. During 2004, Kansas established a second project in Shawnee County.

With CIP funds and the assistance of the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, Sedgwick County completed an evaluation of the juvenile mediation pilot project [KS-04-01]. This evaluation consisted of two components: a confidential questionnaire and a case record review. The confidential questionnaire was distributed to participants and, to date, 821 completed questionnaires have been returned. Generally, participants were highly satisfied with the process. The evaluation report concluded: "Their satisfaction was not influenced by their role, the goals, or the outcome of the mediation. Parents, attorneys for the parents, and children were as satisfied as case workers. The degree of satisfaction by all parties is noteworthy because of the nature of the agreements reached. In general, the agreements focused on parent or caretaker activities. In other words, the mediation agreement required parents or caretakers to change their participation in the case or engage in more services. Despite the focus on the parent, they remained satisfied with the process."

The case record review covered 120 cases, 61 of which received mediation and 59 of which did not. Of the 61 mediated cases, 58 cases had a record in the file that indicated the outcome of the mediation. Forty-one cases reached full agreement, 10 cases reached a partial agreement, and six cases were unable to reach an agreement. One case reached a full agreement, but the court rejected it. The data analyzed did not indicate conclusively that mediated cases had better outcomes on the length of case opening, length of time in out-of-home care, and completion of services. The evaluation report concluded: "However, over half of the cases were opened for longer than one year before they participated in mediation. Prior to mediation, families were referred to other court ordered services that also did not necessarily influence case outcomes. It is possible that families were referred to mediation because other services were not working. In addition, the parents in the mediation group were different than those in the non-mediated groups. Mothers had more incidents of mood disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and parenting problems which may have added to the difficulty of the case."

Based upon the results of the evaluation, the Office of Judicial Administration solicited grants from the Juvenile Justice Authority and Social and Rehabilitation Services to fund the next phase of the development of juvenile dependency mediation in Kansas. The new grant will be used to assess interest among Kansas's judicial districts and provide a three-day training for new juvenile dependency mediators.

The Joint Committee on Juvenile Dependency Mediation was created with members of the Supreme Court Task Force on Permanency Planning and the Advisory Council on Dispute Resolution. The Joint Committee reviewed rules, standards, and guidelines from various states. Based on this process, the Joint Committee drafted suggested changes to state Supreme Court Rule 902 [KS-04-02] that establishes requirements for all mediators in Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court adopted the suggested revisions.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Legislation

The Kansas Judicial Council has drafted proposed revisions to the Code for the Care of Children. The revisions, mainly intended to "clean-up" prior statutory language, were introduced to the Kansas Legislature and passed the House. The revisions can be found at www.kscourts.org/council/cinc_code_new05.pdf. The Senate has placed the bill in committee. The committee will research the proposed revisions and make a decision on them during the legislative recess this summer.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Reassessment

Kansas is in the final stages of its reassessment. The case review, stakeholder interviews, and statewide survey have been completed. The Supreme Court Task Force on Permanency Planning met in May 2005 to begin drafting the Court Improvement Reassessment Report and Recommendations for Improvements. The Reassessment Report is scheduled to be complete in June 2005 and the Recommendations will be presented to the Kansas Supreme Court in September 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Kansas was in the first group of states to participate in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). Both the Office of Judicial Administration and the Court Improvement Project, through the Supreme Court Task Force, asked a juvenile judge to be trained and participate as a member of the onsite review team. A CIP representative provided information during the interview portion of the review.

With regard to the Program Improvement Plan (PIP), the Court Improvement Project staff participated in the Child Safety and Permanency Panel. The CIP staff also reviewed several drafts of the PIP and provided input. The CIP has provided the assistance required to implement the court-related portions of the PIP largely through training on ASFA and issues related to permanency.

Once the child welfare directors are trained on revisions to the CFSR during the summer of 2005, Kansas will begin preparations for the next review.
Child and Family Services Review




Kentucky


To Table of Contents

www.kycourts.net/AOC/DCS/AOC_DCS_KCIP.shtm

Family Courts

As discussed extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Kentucky Court Improvement Project supported the efforts of model Family Court sites across the state. Information regarding Family Courts can be found at www.kycourts.net.

In June 2004, Hardin County, the highest populated county without a Family Court, became a Family Court location. Family Courts currently serve well over two million Kentucky citizens, more than half the population of the Commonwealth.

In March 2005, the Kentucky General Assembly supported Chief Justice Lambert's commitment to Family Courts by funding eight new court sites. When these sites become operational in 2006, they will serve 19 counties, in addition to the 43 counties that currently have a Family Court. With these added sites, Family Courts will serve over half of the state's 120 counties.

Operational Family Courts are a source of innovation in court practice in Kentucky. Over the past year, Family Courts have piloted projects for permanency mediation in dependency, neglect, and abuse cases, see Mediation Project, as well as the following additional projects:

  • Family Drug Court Programs. Jefferson Family Court Judge Eleanor Garber has been operating a grant-based family drug court program for a highly populated urban area. Family drug court programs are adapted from the criminal drug court model, in that family programs also link parents with substance abuse issues with intervention and counseling services, coupled with regular drug testing and intensive court monitoring. Fayette Family Court is developing a similar pilot program in the Lexington area, which is currently operating without funding. Family Court Judge Debra Hembree Lambert also operates a juvenile/family drug court program in the Lincoln/Pulaski/Rockcastle Family Court and has referred both parents and children (if appropriate) for treatment.
  • Truancy Court Programs. There are truancy court programs in 11 family court counties, including Jefferson, Fayette, McCracken, Barren/Metcalfe, Lincoln/Pulaski/Rockcastle, Boyle/Mercer, Clark/Madison, Franklin, Boone, Campbell, and Carter/Elliot/Morgan. While the details of these programs vary slightly from location to location, all involve visits by the Family Court Judges to local schools to speak directly to children with school attendance problems. The judges 'hold court' at the schools, heightening awareness of the seriousness of truancy among all students. The judges also discuss the importance of education, interpersonal communication skills, and personal habits for increased success in life with students.
  • Employment Programs. Three Family Courts have developed programs that partner courts with local employment agencies to find jobs for parents delinquent in support obligations. The Jefferson Family Court operates 'Turning It Around,' an intensive course that involves developing employment skills and opportunities for fathers who are delinquent in child support obligations. In 2004, the Fayette Family Court began 'Partners in Employment' which matches up individuals who are delinquent on payments with local community employers in need of personnel. The program involves intense screening and monitoring of participants by a compliance officer to best match the employer and employee, which in turn leads to positive success rates and higher confidence for employers in the quality of employees they can expect from the program. Henderson Family Court began a partnership with local personnel and vocational training agencies in 2004 to provide referrals for delinquent obligors to find employment within the community. The program also provides referrals for educational opportunities, such as GEDs and vocational training. This program is known as 'Judgment or Employment,' indicating that it is an alternative to incarceration for delinquent obligors.
  • Teen Parent Education Programs. The Teen Parents and the Law (TPAL) program is based on a national teen court curriculum and serves to teach teen parents life skills through the prism of civic education. The intensive program takes place over a number of weeks and covers topics such as landlord-tenant law, consumer protection, child custody, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, voter registration, and state mandatory education requirements. The program is designed to teach teen parents the skills to be effective parents and self-advocates. In April 2005, the Administrative Office of the Courts held a 'train the trainers' program on the TPAL curriculum for Family Court staff members. Ten Family Courts were supplied curriculum materials and are either implementing the program or are in the planning stages of implementation.

In June 2005, Family Courts participated in a statewide family court Adoption Day celebration to promote adoption and permanency for children in foster care, see Adoption Day.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
New/Innovative Programs

Adoption Opportunities Grant/Court Improvement Project Pilot Sites

As discussed in earlier versions of the Court Improvement Progress Report, the CIP had established two pilot sites in conjunction with its Adoption Opportunities Grant (AOG). The One Legal Voice Project was designed to improve the termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption process in Laurel and Knox Counties by ensuring children and the agency are provided with efficient, effective, and consistent legal representation. Children are assigned guardians ad litem (GALs), with a goal of one child/one GAL for the life of the case.

For agency representation, the CIP entered into a contract with the local Commonwealth Attorney's Office. The courts in Laurel and Knox Counties developed a risk assessment methodology to identify those children who were likely to have their parents' rights terminated, which is used by the local Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) worker assigned to the case at the initial screening. If it is the position of the local CHFS office that the child meets the 'high risk' criteria, then the Commonwealth Attorney's Office is contacted in order to discuss the issue. If all parties decide the child is high risk, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office handles the case throughout the entire court process instead of the CHFS attorney.

In the two years prior to the grant, only six TPR cases were handled and three adoptions occurred in Laurel and Knox Counties. At the July 2004 conclusion of the project, a total of 121 children had met the criteria necessary for One Legal Voice case processing. Forty-five (37%) out of the 121 children attained a permanent placement. Of the children that attained a permanent placement, 41 (91%) were adopted and the four remaining children were returned to their parent(s). Forty-one (54%) of the children who were awaiting permanency received a TPR order. Termination occurred for 82 (68%) of the 121 children that were involved with the project. The average length of time between entry into foster care and the filing of the TPR was 21 months. The average length of time between entry into care and a finalized TPR was 25 months.

The CIP finalized the One Legal Voice initiative with funds provided from the 2003 allotment. A case transition process has occurred. A state-funded child welfare agency staff attorney position was created and this individual has assumed case responsibility for TPR and adoption cases. The One Legal Voice Project not only improved the TPR and adoption process in the pilot site, it also established a clear and present need for the provision of additional legal resources to the local community. Consequently, more state resources have been provided to the area.

There are no plans to replicate the One Legal Voice Project in other parts of the state. The CIP is working with the CHFS Office of Counsel leadership on the state's Program Improvement Plan and legal representation. The Office of Counsel is tracking cases more closely to determine what areas of the state need attention in TPR and adoption. As a result, the provision of legal resources to children who experience the TPR process has improved.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Programs and Model Courts

Mediation Project

The CIP is developing a permanency mediation project, as reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. During the permanency mediation process, parties work with an impartial third party who guides participants in developing a plan for the expedited permanent placement of the child(ren) with parents, relatives, adoptive parents, legal guardians, or in another planned permanent living arrangement.

The CIP hired a permanency mediation coordinator in January 2005, who is working under supervision of the Administrative Office of the Court's (AOC) Department of Mediation and Family Court Services. After a brief orientation, the coordinator quickly identified potential counties in which pilot permanency mediation projects could be initiated. With a goal of developing two to three sites that would be partially operational by the end of the fiscal year, three Family Court sites have been identified. The permanency mediation coordinator has met with family court judges, court staff, CHFS personnel, GALs, prospective mediators, and local agency personnel in jurisdictions that include the following counties: Franklin, Fayette, Pulaski, Rockcastle, and Lincoln. When selecting sites, the coordinator will consider the following factors: the interest of the court staff in the project, the availability of highly trained mediators to sustain the project after the pilot stage, adequate facilities to accommodate the mediations, and buy-in from the child welfare agency and local attorneys.

One case was mediated in April 2005, two in May 2005, and six in June 2005. The CIP planned a one-day mediator training conducted in June 2005, which focused on training new permanency mediators from several counties. The CIP awarded a contract to Just Solutions of Louisville, Kentucky, to co-mediate in these jurisdictions. Just Solutions has highly trained and experienced mediators who assisted very effectively with previous permanency mediations. The CIP is discussing with Just Solutions the possibility of conducting advanced mediation training for future permanency mediators. A nationally recognized presenter is also being contacted regarding this training. The strategy is to train skilled mediators in the pilot sites so they can continue permanency mediation in the local jurisdictions as the permanency mediation program expands.

As project sites are added, the coordinator will begin training local personnel, attorneys, mediators, and agencies to implement the permanency mediation program. The initial training for all involved parties will include practices for identifying cases in which mediation appears appropriate, policies and procedures developed for the original pilot site, orientation for the participating family members, and securing facilities amenable to successful mediation and scheduling requirements. Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Dependency Law Clinic

In conjunction with assistance attained from the Children's Justice Act, the CIP has established a Dependency Law Clinic targeted at the law schools in Kentucky. Since first year associates and new attorneys are often required to handle pro bono work, the CIP has provided GAL trainings in Kentucky law schools. In February and March 2005, trainings were held at the University of Kentucky Law School, the Salmon P. Chase Law School at Northern Kentucky University, and the Louis Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.

The agenda and core materials for these trainings were derived from materials used in the GAL trainings for attorneys. On the first day of the training, students were provided with a statutory review of dependency, neglect, and abuse law. The students reviewed pertinent ethical concerns for GALs. Information was presented on child abuse and neglect as well as other specific issues addressing Kentucky's children. The second day of training involved a practical component where students were directed on how to perform an adequate investigation and prepare a report both for the court and/or their own records. Students were also advised on evidentiary concerns for GALs.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Legal Programs and Clinics

Improved Case Tracking

As described in prior Court Improvement Project Reports, the Kentucky Court Improvement Project has worked to improve the case tracking system. Kentucky expects to achieve full implementation of its new Children's Automated Tracking System (CATS) for AOC staff by August 2005, with access to the system for judges occurring sometime thereafter.

The purpose of the CATS system is to serve as a source of case information for the AOC, judges, Citizen Foster Care Review Boards, and Cabinet for Health and Family Services staff in order to assist in decision making as it relates to individual cases. It will also serve the purpose of fulfilling the statutory reporting requirements that specify what data is to be reported to the Legislature, Chief Justice, and Governor by the Administrative Office of the Courts on the behalf of Citizen Foster Care Review Boards. Data within the system will guide Kentucky in discovering what areas need to be improved upon in the spectrum of abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings, including such things as the timely filing of TPR petitions, permanency hearings, and placement stability.

Furthermore, CATS will ensure that every child who is in the custody of the state is afforded with the opportunity for his or her case to be reviewed by a Citizen Foster Care Review Board. The system allows for more timely notification of cases to be reviewed. This notification is statutorily required to be provided to the AOC by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services via case plans sent in the mail, which has historically not always happened for every case. The CATS system enhances this process.

Additionally, tracking the placement of children is a key to adoption proceedings in Kentucky. Judges that hear the TPR case may not hear the adoption case because the Kentucky statute requires that adoption petitions be filed in the county in which the adoptive parents reside. So, if a child is placed with foster adoptive parents in a county outside of the jurisdiction of the court that did the TPR case, the judge who has been intimately involved with the case loses touch with the case. Also, judges should know what children are in adoptive placements in their jurisdictions so that they are aware of the adoption proceedings that may emerge in their courts. Judges should also monitor filing requirements that initiate proceedings and the CATS system will enhance their ability to monitor timelines and the procedures that initiate court events. Judges will also be able to conveniently see the findings and recommendations made by the Citizen Foster Care Review Board assigned to the case as the system is designed to track every single review in its entirety. The current system does not track every issue addressed by the Boards and required to meet the statutory reporting requirement, and as a result, each year Kentucky has had to use a sample of cases to report. Inn CATS, dynamic reporting will be available through the Crystal Reports Program.

A link directly to the respective case in KYCourtnet will be available in the CATS system as well so that users will have the ability to see a more comprehensive picture of individual cases. KYCourtnet is a statewide court information system that houses information pertaining to all the cases that journey through the court system. KYCourtnet is the system used to provide criminal records checks for the state of Kentucky.

CATS merges data from the child welfare agency's TWIST system with reviews of Citizen Foster Care Review Boards (CFCRB) and local court data into a clear and concise, yet comprehensive system. Some of the major features of CATS include:

  • Housing all reviews conducted by CFCRB. CFCRB review forms have been automated so that information that does not change from review to review is pre-printed.
  • Tracking the placement history of every child in the agency's custody.
  • Tracking key court dates a child experiences during the stay in foster care, including adjudications, dispositions, and permanency reviews.
  • Allowing judges and social workers throughout the state to have access to the system.
  • Tracking names and addresses of parties relevant to cases (GALs, social workers, supervisors, judges, etc.). Users will have the capability to send email and attachments directly from the system to another party. A user may pull up his or her caseload in order to determine any areas needing attention, making it easier to notify parties for reviews associated with a particular case.
  • Tracking all CIP-related training. The system will track both GALs and social workers that have received the CIP's GAL, Family Service Worker, and Cross Professional Training and those that have not. Training hours and dates will be in the new system. The CIP will be able to target those individuals who have not received training as well as those in need of continuing education. Training hours and dates for CFCRB volunteers will be tracked as well.

A key feature of the new CATS system is the ability to download data from the child welfare agency's TWIST system directly into the CATS system. The child welfare agency will be able to notify the AOC of children entering and leaving foster care, as required by statute, on a much more timely basis.
Technology
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
Technology: Information Sharing

Expedition of Appeals

As a result of an advisory recommendation by Kentucky's Community Stakeholders Advisory Group, the CIP asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to implement a rule for expedition of termination of parental rights (TPR) appeals. While a statutory rule change has not been instituted, the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have changed their internal process of handling appeals to expedite TPR appeals. The CHFS Office of Counsel indicated that staff attorneys have seen a more expeditious handling of TPR appeals by the Court of Appeals since it changed its internal process.
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals

GAL Training Program

The Court Improvement Project continues to fund the GAL Training Program in conjunction with funds obtained through the Children's Justice Act. The main goal of the GAL Program is to produce highly qualified guardians ad litem by coordinating training sessions, compiling educational materials, and serving as an overall resource to GALs throughout the state. The program is staffed by a GAL Education Specialist, an attorney who organizes training and acts as a liaison between the courts, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), and other parties essential to the processing of a dependency, neglect, or abuse case. The GAL Program conducts multidisciplinary training for professionals who practice in Kentucky's juvenile court system and also trains family service workers on court testimony protocol and procedures, etiquette, and preparation of court reports. The past year's events have included training for GALs, private attorneys, county attorneys, judges, judicial staff and agency counsel, and family service workers.

Seminars are full day events and participants are awarded 6.5 continuing legal education credits (CLEs) for their participation in these events. The seminars cover dependency, neglect, and abuse; TPR and adoption; accommodating the needs of children in the courtroom; and ethical responsibilities of the GAL. Three GAL seminars have been held since January 2005 and an additional six have been scheduled through July 2005. The CIP coordinator is scheduled to present on dependency, neglect, and abuse issues at the Prosecutor's Advisory Council's annual convention this summer with an emphasis on the role of the county attorney in bringing dependency, neglect, and abuse cases before the court and his or her interactions with family service workers.

The GAL Training Program has provided training for agency staff on court testimony, protocol and procedures, etiquette, and preparation of court reports (Family Service Worker Training). Since January, three of these trainings have been held. An additional five Family Service Worker trainings occurred through the end of June 2005. Since July 2004, over 500 GALs and almost 200 family service workers have been trained.

The GAL Training Program has established a workgroup consisting of judges, county attorneys, and agency staff to develop a format for court reports to be implemented statewide. The first meeting of this workgroup was held in April 2005. Forms have been developed and distributed to the field for comment.

With implementation of the new information system, see Improved Case Tracking, the CIP will be able to track which GALs have had 'training appropriate to the role' as specified in CAPTA.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
Training and Education: CASA/Social Worker Training

Adoption Day

In 2004, Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert received a challenge from another state's Chief Supreme Court Justice to hold an Adoption Day in Kentucky, during which courts would try to finalize as many adoptions as possible in a single day. This idea has also gained national attention. In November 2004, 128 jurisdictions across the country participated in a National Adoption Day. Adoption Days serve a dual purpose. In addition to finalizing adoptions, it is an excellent opportunity to acquaint the public at large with the plight of children in foster care.

Kentucky Adoption Day events will focus on raising awareness, recruiting adoptive parents, celebrating the personal joy that adoption brings to a family's life and, most importantly, finalizing adoptions for dozens of children throughout Family Court jurisdictions. During the first week of June 2005, Family Courts across Kentucky recognized Adoption Day and planned special events to celebrate adoption.

Collaboration has been vital to planning Adoption Day both on the state and local levels. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the AOC have forged a partnership to ensure completion of necessary tasks and this spirit of collaboration is extending to local court sites and agency offices. Petitions filed with local clerk's offices are designated as Adoption Day cases and children whose cases are appropriate for Adoption Day are being identified both locally and by information systems. Perhaps most importantly, planning for Adoption Day has triggered many jurisdictions to examine and discuss the entire adoption process. As a result, they are developing new ways and procedures to streamline the adoption process in their communities.
Community Collaboration

Reassessment

The Court Improvement Project is working with the University of Kentucky College of Social Work's Training Resource Center on its reassessment. To date, the following components have been completed:

  • Survey. A message from the Chief Justice encouraging participation in the survey process accompanied all the survey invitations. Survey respondents included judges, attorneys, social workers, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Citizen Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) volunteers.
  • Site visits. In each of the five sites, focus groups were held with GALs, FCRB/CASA volunteers, and Cabinet staff.
  • Aggregate data/court file review. Aggregate data has been acquired from the agency and the AOC in the five sites and across the state. A total of 120 court files were selected for review using a clustered randomization or multistage sampling method. AOC staff provided the most current list of cases, including the judicial case record number that was used in the random selection process. Within each chosen judicial region, five percent of existing judicial case files pertaining to children who were released from commitment to child welfare agency during calendar year 2003 were randomly selected for extensive review. Additionally, another five percent (5%) of existing judicial case files pertaining to children who are currently committed to the agency (committed at the time of review) were randomly selected for extensive review. Half of all cases that were extensively reviewed in each cluster pertained to children who were adopted during calendar year 2003 or who have a current permanency plan of adoption. While all judicial cases were included in the sampling frame, only those chosen by the random selection process were reviewed.

    In the smaller counties of Bracken, Pike, and Cumberland/Monroe where adhering to the provided selection guideline resulted in the random selection of only one or two cases, over 100 percent of cases were reviewed by randomly selecting ten total cases composed of five cases of committed children and five of children exited from the system. This process created an appropriate sample for generalization of the results to the specific geographic region.

    A total of 139 judicial case records were identified. Upon review, the reassessment staff discovered that nine of those cases were status offense cases only with no indication of child maltreatment. After the status cases were removed, a total of 130 case records were included in the analysis. The reassessment team developed a database to accommodate the data collected in the case review process.

  • Literature review. A literature review was completed to identify prior research and information that may aid in the interpretation of findings from this reassessment. The literature review will further provide a method of comparison for the AOC as decisions are made regarding the reassessment findings.

In general, the study has been very well received by individuals participating in the reassessment process. The final report was completed by July 1, 2005. At the July 2005 Advisory Group meeting, the results of the reassessment will be presented and an action plan will be developed for implementation of the recommendations.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Kentucky participated in the CFSR in 2003 and the final report was issued in June 2003. The Court Improvement Project fully participated in the planning for the CFSR process, the statewide assessment, and the onsite review (the CIP Supervisor was a state reviewer).

The Court Improvement Project participated in the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) and is currently involved in its implementation. Some of the activities being overseen by the CIP include the following:

  • Forums to address permanency. The Protection and Permanency (P&P) Director of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Office of General Counsel will collaborate with the AOC to conduct forums in each judicial district between Judges, Cabinet Service Regional Administrators, SRAs, and Regional Attorneys to address timely achievement of permanency. Status: This process is ongoing; eight forums were completed at various state parks. Forums are open and interactive. Participants are asked to share all concerns with peers in the forums. Since January 2005, over 200 individuals have participated in the forums around the state. Information gathered at the forums is being used to guide the state's PIP efforts in the area of permanency. At each forum, issues are presented and solutions are developed by local participants to implement in their respective area.
  • Quarterly meetings to review adoption goals. The P&P Director, Office of General Counsel, and the AOC will conduct quarterly reviews of PIP and CIP goals related to adoption. Status: At this time, meetings are being held monthly for this purpose.
  • Permanency Barriers Project. The CIP is collaborating with the AOC, Office of General Counsel, and the ABA Center on Children and the Law to implement the Permanency Barriers Project in one rural region of the state. Status: This Project is ongoing. An advisory board has been established and an adolescent permanency workgroup has been formed. Both groups are meeting on a regular basis. There is discussion on forming a youth advisory board as well. Issues addressed by this project include reports to the court, case worker testimony, training, forms, and best practices.
  • Tip Sheets regarding Annual Permanency Review. The CIP developed tip sheets for all parties regarding the Annual Permanency Review. Status: This project is completed. The CIP coordinator worked in conjunction with agency staff on the implementation of a permanency review tip sheet that is now incorporated into the agency's Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
  • Written Protocols for Annual Permanency Review. Judges and the Department for Community-Based Services were required to develop written protocols regarding the Annual Permanency Review. Status: This step is completed. In addition to written protocols for the permanency review, the CIP coordinator and agency staff developed a form that is used by the agency to notify the court of the permanency hearing in accordance with Kentucky statute.
  • Quality of Annual Permanency Reviews. The AOC and the Department for Community Based Services will monitor quality of Annual Permanency Reviews. Status: Monitoring is ongoing; reassessment results will include data relating to quality of Annual Permanency Reviews.
  • Promotion of statewide implementation of Family Courts. Promotion of statewide implementation of Family Courts is ongoing. Status: See Family Courts.

Kentucky is preparing for the second round of the CFSR by conducting its own internal reviews in each of the 16 agency service regions. The CIP coordinator is on a list of available reviewers and is scheduled to be a reviewer at an upcoming review in the fall. Child and Family Services Review
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

The CIP obtained funds through the Children's Justice Act to expand and support the training of GALs in accordance with the new CAPTA amendment requiring 'training appropriate to the role' for GALs representing children in abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings, see GAL Training Program.
Funding Issues




Louisiana


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Implementation of Recommendations Resulting From Site Visits to Assess ASFA Compliance

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Louisiana Court Improvement Program (LCIP) used court improvement funds to assist any interested local courts in assessing ASFA compliance. During 2003, the LCIP conducted a total of 21 site visits. The barriers to ASFA compliance found during the site visits and the corresponding LCIP recommendations were detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004.

During 2004, the LCIP took several steps to implement the recommendations. Specifically, with regard to reducing delays and ensuring the adequacy of hearings and court orders, the LCIP drafted uniform court rules for child in need of care cases. The Louisiana Supreme Court adopted the rules, effective July 1, 2005.

The Louisiana Task Force on Legal Representation, created by state legislation in 2003, is working to improve qualified, competent legal counsel for children. This group consists of representatives from the LCIP, state child welfare agency, the Louisiana Bar Association, CASA, Louisiana law schools, and other child welfare stakeholders. The Task Force has completed a set of standards for attorneys representing children. These standards will be presented to the Supreme Court for official action, with the recommendation that the standards be made mandatory, rather than aspirational. The LCIP will advocate for legislative extension of the Task Force so it can conduct follow-up activity on the standards and consider drafting standards for parents' attorneys and, possibly, agency attorneys.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Louisiana CASA

Due to the loss of TANF funding, the LCIP has provided support to the Louisiana CASA Association for its annual conference. The LCIP will partner with CASA to provide regional training opportunities statewide for child welfare stakeholders, including attorneys, CASAs, agency staff, foster parents, judges, and others. The curriculum will include state and federal law and regulations, early childhood and adolescent development, and training on relevant court rules and procedures.
Training and Education
Training and Education: CASA/Social Worker Training

Integrated Juvenile Justice Information System

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the LCIP developed a Juvenile Court Monitoring Database, which was made available to other states that wished to use or modify it. The Juvenile Court Monitoring Database has been integrated into the Integrated Juvenile Justice Information System (IJJIS). The resulting database is quite large and, for smaller courts, has proven difficult to manage on the local level. The LCIP staff has been exploring system modifications that would web-enable the program, so that the software could be housed and managed at one location, with local courts accessing the program over the Internet. The program will be housed on the Louisiana Supreme Court's server, which will allow for new modifications, programming, and trouble-shooting to be handled in a central location.

Louisiana has now completed the draft design specifications for the new web-based child in need of care portion of the IJJIS. The performance measures are a blend of the Packard performance measures and state performance measures. The state performance measures involve tracking actual case event dates against mandatory statutory timeframes, so that courts can know how many days in or out of compliance case events are occurring. Data elements and business rules are nearing completion. The measures will be implemented in the initial pilot sites, i.e., one large urban court and two medium-sized district courts, likely by the end of 2005. The goal is for performance measures to be adopted by the Louisiana Supreme Court as a part of its annual reporting system.

In Louisiana, most courts develop and maintain their own juvenile IT system, but with the work on IJJIS, Louisiana is moving toward a statewide system. Since the Louisiana Supreme Court has agreed to house the new web-based IJJIS on its central server, local courts will be able to access this centralized database over the web, which would help to overcome the local barriers to developing and maintaining their own systems. It would also provide statewide data for reporting and the opportunity to standardize procedures and definitions to create consistent data. The final design specifications document is available for review [LA-05-01].

As part of the IJJIS development, the LCIP and the child welfare agency have agreed to form a workgroup to identify data to be shared/exchanged and to develop a user agreement. The LCIP plans to share the information to the extent allowed by law among the internal (Supreme Court) users (delinquency, status offenses, drug court) of the IJJIS. The LCIP will also conduct discussions with other external users, including CASAs, sheriffs (process service), and schools.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
Technology: Internet Development

Judicial Training Curriculum

As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the LCIP is working with the Judicial College and the Louisiana State Bar Association to develop an ongoing curriculum for continuing education for judges. The curriculum will include some or all of the following topics:

  • Information regarding relevant federal and state laws and agency regulations and policies.
  • Information about relevant court decisions and court rules.
  • Overview of the court process.
  • Description of applicable guidelines and standards for children's attorney representation.
  • Information about child development, needs, and abilities.
  • Information on the multidisciplinary input required in child-related cases, including information on local experts who can provide consultation and testimony on the reasonableness and appropriateness of efforts made to safely maintain the child in his or her home.
  • Information concerning family dynamics and dysfunction including substance abuse and use of kinship care, domestic violence, etc.
  • Information on accessible child welfare, family preservation, medical, educational, and mental health resources for child clients and their families, including placement, evaluation/diagnostic, and treatment services. This information will include details about the structure of agencies providing such services as well as provisions and constraints related to agency payment for services.
  • Written material (e.g., bench cards, checklists, sample forms), including listings of useful material available from other sources.

Training and Education
Training and Education: Other Training

Mediation Pilot Program

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court and Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court have undertaken a three-year pilot program to implement mediation. To date, the program has served over 100 children and families and has met or exceeded all of its initial goals. Major grant funding for the pilot ended on June 30, 2005. Both Orleans and Jefferson Parish Juvenile Courts have agreed to provide continuation support beyond the pilot period. The LCIP is working with the two pilot sites to ensure funding for the continuation of the programs.

The mediation pilot program is currently being evaluated. The evaluation will be completed by June 30, 2005, at which time a copy will be available for review.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Juvenile Law Reform Commission

During 2001, the Louisiana State Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 94 to create the Louisiana Juvenile Justice Commission to study juvenile law reform in Louisiana, including issues related to CINC cases. The LCIP has been involved with the commission primarily as it addresses ASFA-related issues. To date, however, most of the reform activities have involved the juvenile delinquency system.

In conjunction with the Office of Community Services and the Office of Youth Development, the LCIP has developed a report identifying perceived barriers to the full implementation of ASFA. This report, completed in 2004, will be provided to legislators and is being utilized in the CIP reassessment process.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Reassessment

As previously reported, Louisiana conducted a statewide review of the courts' compliance with ASFA. In 2003, the LCIP staff conducted site visits and a reassessment of the courts that were the subject of the 2002 review. The findings from the follow-up site visits form the basis of Louisiana's reassessment, with the addition of some other items that were not covered by the 2002 and 2003 audits. The final report was submitted on June 30, 2005. The LCIP Advisory Committee will meet in August 2005 to begin considering the recommendations and revising the Louisiana Strategic Plan. The LCIP has requested assistance from the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Louisiana participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2003. The LCIP assisted in arranging stakeholder interviews for the onsite review and the LCIP Coordinator participated as a case reviewer. Members of the LCIP staff were interviewed.

The CIP Coordinator participated in the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) by serving on the committee addressing timely adoptions. The LCIP is responsible for two items contained in the PIP: 1) promulgation and implementation of standards for children's attorneys and 2) judicial/stakeholder education.
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

Many local courts continue to struggle with the ASFA mandates in terms of staffing. For example, although all courts should have a case manager to handle child in need of care cases, few do. In addition, there continues to be inadequate funds to pay attorneys for children and parents, and virtually no resources to pay mediators.
Funding Issues




Maine


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Judicial Branch Priorities and Judicial Resource Team

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court created a Judicial Resource Team (JRT) to 'assess the workload and judicial resources of Maine's trial courts and generate a new model for scheduling courts and allocating judicial resources.' The JRT issued a report and recommendations to the Supreme Judicial Court in September 2003. Emphasizing event certainty, the JRT endorsed single judge assignments, regional scheduling and coordination of schedules among the trial courts, a tighter continuance policy for all cases, and the use of judicial settlement conferences as part of trial list scheduling and management. The Supreme Judicial Court adopted the recommendations in their entirety. Implementation of the recommendations is underway and occurring in phases.

Single judge assignment in Protective Custody (PC) cases has been implemented around the state. All regions have reviewed and redesigned their schedules with appropriate amounts of time designated for PC cases, based on caseload size and including trailing trial list time. Regional trial lists are used in some regions, e.g. York County, Cumberland County (Portland-Bridgton), Aroostook County. Use of judicial settlement conferences has begun in some parts of the state.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Case Management and Planning

Case Management Procedure

As reported extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Maine developed and implemented a comprehensive case management procedure to apply the statutory time frames of ASFA and related state law. Pursuant to Maine's Strategic Plan, the Court Improvement Project (CIP) reviewed the case management procedure. Based on the review results, the CIP is drafting new rules to govern child protection proceedings. The proposed rules require judges to address each federal and state mandated issue at each stage of a child protection proceeding. Time frames are clearly specified. For example, agreed upon orders must be presented for the judge's signature within 21 days from the date the judge accepts the agreement and Case Management/Pretrial Orders must be provided to counsel at the close of the Case Management Conference or within 72 hours. The proposed rules have been updated to include a protocol for ordering a Child Abuse and Neglect Evaluators Project (CANEP) evaluation. The proposed rules were submitted for review, and are now being edited.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders

Child Protection Coordinator

Recognizing the need to devote more administrative resources to child protection matters, the CIP decided to use grant monies to fund a new position within the Family Division Office called the Child Protection Coordinator. The duties of the Child Protection Coordinator were detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004.

In 2004, a Child Protection Coordinator was hired. The Coordinator helped organize trainings for court clerks and District Court judges. She also assisted with the Child Abuse and Neglect Evaluators Project (CANEP) training event and a continuing education program for Guardians ad Litem. The Coordinator left the position shortly thereafter and the position was vacant for a period of months.

In reviewing the overall responsibilities and functioning of the position, the CIP and Family Division Office decided to combine some of the duties of the Child Protection Coordinator with the duties of the part-time CANEP Coordinator. The plan is to have a full-time position responsible for CANEP and CIP activities. By doing so, the position will be broader in scope and provide for a more integrated approach. An experienced and trained court coordinator recently assumed this position.
Court Staffing
Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

Family Treatment Drug Court

The Family Treatment Drug Court (FTDC) has been operating at the Belfast District Court (a mid-coast, rural location) since February 2003 and established a satellite location at the Wiscasset District Court in 2004. Holding FTDC sessions in Wiscassett was not successful due to the low number of eligible participants from the Wiscassett Court. Rockland was part of the Belfast program from the start and was included in the original grant. Rockland participants attend the sessions that are held at the Belfast District Court. Family Treatment Drug Courts are providing valuable support for parents and children involved in child protection proceedings where the primary caregiver suffers from substance abuse. There are plans for further expansion to include participants from the Augusta area. Once the number of Augusta participants reaches a viable number, the Augusta District Court will establish its own program.

In March 2004, Lewiston District Court established its own FTDC through a new grant funding source. The program received immediate referrals and has been well received by the parent participants.

Currently, all of the FTDC programs are working to identify and develop plans for ongoing funding.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Child Abuse and Neglect Evaluators Project

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the District Court has initiated the Child Abuse and Neglect Evaluators Project (CANEP) to improve the quality and timeliness of court-ordered parental capacity evaluations in child protection cases. Members of the Court Improvement Project Committee serve as members of the CANEP Advisory Board. The project is a collaborative effort with the child welfare agency, which helped identify federal funding for the project.

To date, CANEP selected and trained psychologists and psychiatrists interested in performing court-ordered forensic evaluations. In the summer of 2003, CANEP began operating as a pilot project at the Lewiston District Court. By the end of 2003, CANEP had assigned evaluators in approximately 40 cases and was ready to expand to an additional court location. All participating evaluators utilize a research-based evaluation protocol developed by the court's clinical consultant. The goals of the project are to improve procedures for obtaining court-ordered evaluations and to provide the parties and the court with timely, impartial, and thorough evaluation reports.

CANEP continues to expand its services across Maine. The program has been formally introduced and is operating in all district courts in Maine with the following exceptions: Aroostook County, Portland, Bangor, and Rumford. A priority task of the new Coordinator will be to expand into these geographic areas. The program has, however, provided evaluations to the excepted courts when specifically asked to do so by the court and parties. Statewide expansion of this program is cited in Maine's PIP.

Since July 2003, CANEP has provided approximately 225 evaluations in child abuse and neglect cases in Maine. CANEP has been very active in developing informational materials, including the CANEP Handbook for Parents and Legal Guardians in Child Protection Cases [ME-05-01], CANEP Informational Brochure [ME-05-02], Clinical Child Maltreatment Evaluation Guide [ME-03-03], and Guide to CANEP Referral Questions [ME-04-01].

CANEP also conducted two trainings. A one-day training entitled 'Child Maltreatment' had broad appeal for all involved in use of the CANEP program. Topics ranged from medical issues and the psychological impact of child maltreatment to formulating useful clinical recommendations. The second CANEP training, entitled 'Expert Testimony,' gave participants the opportunity to learn and practice courtroom skills.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
New/Innovative Projects

Automated Information System

Maine has a statewide Judicial Information System, the Maine Judicial Information System (MEJIS). Clerks record key events relating to child protection court proceedings in MEJIS. The performance measures utilized by Maine are the timelines designated by state and federal law.

The Director of the Family Division participated on a subcommittee of the Case Management and Case Information Committee that built upon the work of the JRT (detailed in Judicial Branch Priorities and Judicial Resource Team). The subcommittee developed baseline child protection management reports and recommended case completion standards for TPRs since no standards previously existed in state law. Maine's Supreme Judicial Court recently approved the Committee's recommendations. Implementation will begin shortly. The goal is to have management reports programmed before the end of 2005.

There are no data exchanges with the agency at this time. The court and agency, however, plan to discuss the data that each has with a view toward sharing appropriate data. The plan is to avoid developing duplicative systems. The initial phase of implementation is scheduled to be complete by February 2006, which will include the electronic sharing of the Child Support Worksheet and the Scheduling Notice.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Management and Tracking Systems

Court Clerks

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project continues to fund temporary help for court clerks' offices. Temporary help has taken on some of the less complex tasks, such as operating recording equipment in the courtroom, so clerks can focus on communicating with the parties, scheduling proceedings, and docketing court orders.

The Judicial Branch has been required by the legislature to keep twenty positions vacant during the last year due to budget constraints. The temporary help has, therefore, played a key role in the effective and efficient operation of the courts and the effective processing of child protection cases.
Court Staffing
Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

Training

Maine conducted several trainings designed to address specific issues of concern during 2004. Annual core training was provided for guardians ad litem (GALs), which included topics such as child development, interviewing children, report writing and testifying. Considerable attention was also given to domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues. One complete day was devoted to GALs in family matters cases and a complete day to GALs in child protection cases.

Another training was provided for GALs who were on Maine's roster of previously qualified GALs. This training provided an opportunity for the GALs to complete the necessary continuing legal education credits required to remain on the roster. The theme of this day-long program was permanency in child protection cases, with a focus on when the use of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) is appropriate as a permanency plan. It specifically addressed the steps necessary to rule out other permanency options and determine that APPLA meets the child's needs. Maine's Program Improvement Plan (PIP) includes this training as an action step to increase the 'number of children who have an appropriate permanency goal established.'

Additionally, Maine District Court judges attended a meeting on training entitled 'Child Protection Matters; Promoting Permanency Planning for Children.' Judge Nancy S. Salyers, Co-Director of Fostering Results, a Pew Charitable Trust supported effort, was the featured speaker. She addressed the court's role in achieving permanency for children through permanency planning hearings. This training was also included as part of Maine's PIP action steps.

A two-day court clerks conference was held in 2004 to provide District Court clerks with updated information and skills important in the child protection area. Significant time was devoted to the work of the Court's Judicial Resource Team, including recommendations for scheduling and management information important in child protection cases.

A comprehensive list of Permanency Hearing Questions [ME-04-02] was compiled for use by the District Court judges in child protection cases. The list addresses legal concerns as well as procedural issues. It was printed on a single two-sided sheet
Training and Education
Training and Education: Judicial Training
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs
Training and Education: Other Training

Legislation

The Maine Legislature passed several measures impacting child welfare during the most recent session, including the following:

  • An Act to Protect Children from Individuals who have Engaged in Sexual Abuse of Children in the Past. This measure creates a presumption that contact between a child and someone who has been convicted of a sex crime against a minor, or who has been adjudicated in a child protection action of sexually abusing a minor, is not in the best interest of the child. In child protection cases, a parent or person responsible for the child creates a situation of jeopardy for a child if the parent "allows, encourages or fails to prevent contact" between the child and the convicted or adjudicated person.
  • An Act to Establish Permanent Subsidized Guardianship. This bill allows for the establishment of "permanency guardians" as a legal alternative for permanency for children who are in state care. It also allows for the establishment of a means to subsidize guardianships. The next step toward creation of subsidized guardianships is to determine how to provide the necessary funding. Among the options being considered is to request a waiver to use Title IV-E funds for this purpose. The appropriate agency representatives have held discussions and a proposal is being formulated.
  • An Act Regarding Child Protection Proceedings. This bill changes the rules regarding confidentiality. It makes clear that people who receive information from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) cannot further disclose that information unless such disclosure is otherwise permitted by law. It allows DHHS to tell a child's caretaker that the child is in danger from someone else, to share records with evaluators and treatment providers without a written request, and to share information with a relative who is being investigated as a possible placement.
  • An Act to Amend the Child and Family Services and Protection Act. This provision adds to the list of purposes of the Act placing children who are taken from their parents' custody with an adult relative when possible.

Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Child and Family Services Review

Maine underwent its Child and Family Services Review during the summer of 2003. The court system prepared some legal material that was included in the state's self-assessment. The Chief Judge and the Director of the Family Division participated in the interviews during the onsite phase.

During the final quarter of calendar year 2003, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services began drafting its Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The Director of the Family Division participated in a work group that assisted with PIP development. Additionally, the court had input into items in the PIP that pertained to the court. The Director of the Family Division was designated as the person responsible for implementation of some action steps, e.g. statewide training for judges, GALs and CASAs, revising court orders, and TPR policy development. Maine is currently implementing the PIP.
Child and Family Services Review




Maryland


To Table of Contents

http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/33jud/html/04fost.html

Model Court Programs

The Foster Care Court Improvement Project (FCCIP) is working with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to establish Model Court Programs in Maryland. Two courts, Baltimore City and Montgomery County, have been approved and state funding has been provided to start these programs. The lead judges have been identified, and the FCCIP is finalizing the contracts with the NCJFCJ.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Alternative Dispute Resolution

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the FCCIP is working with jurisdictions to implement mediation programs in Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) and TPR cases. The FCCIP offered small grant awards to several jurisdictions to assist with the maintenance or initiation of programs. These jurisdictions included Allegany, Anne Arundel, Charles, and St. Mary's Counties. The mediation programs provide biannual reports to the FCCIP. Funding is for one year, although some jurisdictions have requested to spend the funds beyond the one-year period.

At the present time, there are 13 programs in 14 jurisdictions, representing small, medium, and large jurisdictions. For the jurisdictions not receiving federal CIP dollars, the FCCIP obtained state funding to assist them with their programs. The programs are in various stages of development from program exploration to program evaluation.

The FCCIP is discussing an evaluation of the programs with the Maryland Alternative Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO). No formal evaluation has been arranged at this time. The FCCIP is committed to continuing assistance to mediation programs in CINA court throughout the state. The FCCIP will continue to advise the mediation programs of any Notices of Funding Availability for either FCCIP funds or TPR Initiative Funds. Future funding to mediation programs is contingent upon FCCIP budget approval.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Permanency Planning Liaisons

TAs reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the FCCIP previously received funds through the Department of Family Administration's family services grant budget to hire eight permanency planning liaisons (PPLs) to work with the courts in all jurisdictions. PPLs assist juvenile courts in supporting the implementation and administration of the FCCIP recommendations and priorities. Major duties include the following: 1) monitor CINA cases to ensure children achieve permanency in a timely manner; 2) identify systemic issues and best practices; 3) prepare statistical reports on the progress of foster care cases and search for related cases; 4) work with agency liaisons and facilitate multidisciplinary meetings in the court; and 5) participate in family division staffings and various committees.

Over the past year, the PPLs have focused on reviewing case files and observing court hearings to spot issues of noncompliance. All issues are brought to the attention of the local juvenile judges and FCCIP staff. As mentioned in ADR and CINA Court Conference, the PPLs also assisted with the planning of the Conference. During 2005, PPLs are concentrating on the following tasks:

  • Developing and coordinating mediation programs in Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Charles Counties.
  • Tracking and providing quarterly reports on status of TPR case processing.
  • Reviewing and suggesting modifications to uniform court orders.
  • Conducting a Best Practices Survey to be included in a Best Practices Manual.
  • Training on Uniform Court System reports.
  • Spearheading a pilot Court Family Conference Program in Baltimore City to review cases informally prior to the Permanency Planning hearing.

Court Staffing
Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

ADR and CINA Court Conference

The FCCIP hosted its Second Biennial ADR and CINA Court Conference on May 13, 2005. The Conference theme was mediation. The morning plenary session covered CINA families, the value of mediation, and how to sustain a mediation program. The PPLs and Mediation Program Coordinators were instrumental in developing the program format, topics, and speakers. The Conference brought together juvenile judges and masters; attorneys representing children, parents, and the child welfare agency; case managers; CASAs; Citizen Review Board members; Family Support Service Coordinators and PPLs. For the first time, mediators attended the Conference.
Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training

Dependency Drug Courts

In 2003, the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts assembled a team of legal and child welfare professionals to participate in the Bureau of Justice Assistance Family Drug Court Planning Initiative. The state team attended a national three-part training series of planning programs which served to identify the team's leadership roles in the planning process; provide a basis of understanding of the drug court concept; identify the efficacy of the implementation within a dependency court process; develop a framework for a Family Dependency Treatment Court Strategic Plan; develop a statewide policy and procedures manual; and provide comprehensive education on specialized Family Dependency Treatment Court and operational topics.

Since the completion of the training series, the state team has developed a comprehensive statewide policy and procedures manual on Family Dependency Treatment Courts, which is being reviewed by the Drug Court Commission and is expected to be final in the fall of 2005. The state team also assisted in the development of local Family Dependency Treatment Courts, made presentations to other child welfare stakeholders, and provided various types of technical assistance.

The Harford County Dependency Drug Court Team became operational in May 2004. CIP funds were used to help with drug testing and counseling. Prince George's County is currently participating with the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) training series. No operational date has been identified. The Governor's Office initiated a Dependency Drug Treatment Program in Baltimore City. The Program's team did not attend any of the Bureau of Justice Training programs, but may apply in the future. The Program has been awarded state funds to assist in the hiring of the Program Coordinator. It is expected to be operational August 15, 2005.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Automated Case Tracking

As reported in prior Court Improvement Project Reports, Maryland reported the development of a new internal Uniform Court System (UCS) juvenile module to replace MAJIC, its prior system, in most jurisdictions. Implementation of the UCS juvenile module began in 2002, with 21 jurisdictions receiving the module in 2003. The three largest jurisdictions, Baltimore City, Prince George's County, and Montgomery County, continue to use the MAJIC wrapper, which converts their respective jurisdiction's data into the MAJIC database so the FCCIP staff can continue to maintain statewide data.

In 2001, the Maryland Judiciary began implementation of Case Time Standards in certain case types for the Circuit and District Courts. The child welfare cases were not included. In 2004, the Judiciary expanded the Case Time Standards initiative to child welfare cases. Data definitions have been developed and are waiting final approval from the Conference of Circuit Judges and the Judicial Council. The first assessment of the child welfare data is scheduled to occur from September 2005 to November 2005, with a report produced in December 2005.

The Maryland Judiciary, in collaboration with other state agencies, is in the planning stages of developing a statewide data warehouse. The FCCIP will request that the Department of Human Resources be part of that collaborative effort.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Legislative Update

The Maryland General Assembly passed several provisions affecting child welfare during the 2005 Session. The FCCIP drafted and proposed legislation, the Permanency for Families and Children Act of 2005, which was signed by the Governor on May 26, 2005. Some of the pertinent portions of this legislation include the following:

  • Added additional due process rights for parents related to the right to counsel, right to notice of certain filings, and rights regarding the severing of the parental relationship.
  • Allows for written agreements for post adoption contact between birth parents and adoptive parents.
  • Permits parties to consent to a guardianship conditional on the child being adopted into a specific family.
  • Provides that paternity can be determined by genetic testing and clarifies that paternity issues can be resolved in the guardianship or adoption proceeding.
  • Provides for the contents of guardianship orders.
  • Requires courts, prior to granting a guardianship in certain instances, to consider a report by the child placement agency that discusses the suitability of the petitioner.
  • Adds a minimum period of 180 days of placement before a petitioner can petition for adoption.

Another new provision in this legislation gives courts the authority to enter an order for adoption of a child in need of assistance prior to a separate termination of parental rights hearing, reinforcing an emphasis on alternative dispute resolution. This process mirrors an independent adoption where termination of parental rights occurs simultaneously with adoption and provides the same due process protections of the guardianship section. Under certain specified situations, e.g., one parent affirmatively wants the adoption and the other parent is deceased, cannot be located, or does not object, a separate termination of parental rights is unnecessary. Although it is not anticipated that this provision will affect many cases in the state, it could prevent certain cases, such as those where a child is being adopted by a relative or someone well known to the parent, from lingering on the court's docket. The child's adoption should be able to occur more quickly and the consenting parent does not have to experience the humiliating procedure of termination and then wait for the adoption to occur.

Other bills include the following:

  • SB 696. Requires the Juvenile Court in certain hearings to make a finding as to whether the child welfare agency made reasonable efforts to prevent placement and made reasonable efforts to finalize the child's permanency plan.
  • SB 746. Authorizes a Juvenile Court to grant custody and guardianship of a child to a relative or nonrelative and to order specified reviews after granting custody and guardianship. Also requires the judge to see a specified child, i.e., the child who is the subject of the case, in person before concluding a permanency plan review hearing.
  • HB 957. Authorizes the Juvenile Court to notify specified school officials of the fact that a child has been found to be in need of assistance or supervision and has been committed to a specified custody or under a specified guardianship.
  • HB 1345. Requires the child welfare agency to visit a specified child at the child's out-of-home placement at least once a month under certain conditions and to certify in writing whether a specified placement continues to be safe and stable for a child.

Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Juvenile Rules

As the result of the extensive changes to the CINA statute that became effective in October 2001 and were discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, members of the FCCIP are participating in the revision of the Juvenile Rules. The draft rules are being reviewed in the Style Subcommittee of the Rules Committee.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

FCCIP Evaluation

The American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law evaluated the FCCIP to determine to what extent the recommendations of the 1997 assessment have been implemented. The evaluation process began in January 2003. The evaluation included surveys, site visits (consisting of interviews, court observations, and file reviews), and an analysis of the court statistical systems.

The final report was completed in June 2004 and was detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. Over the past year, the FCCIP has implemented approximately one-third of the recommendations. Some of the recommendations implemented include the following:

  • Continued training for judges and attorneys on the new CINA statute. This recommendation was implemented through annual conferences held in October 2004 for judges and attorneys. Provisions in the CINA statute were also discussed during the regional multidisciplinary training meetings that occurred from November 2004 through January 2005.
  • Continue to assess the need for additional statutory and/or rule changes. For the third time, legislation was submitted to revise the Maryland TPR and adoption laws. The bill, the Permanency for Families and Children Act of 2005, was signed by Governor and is described in Legislative Update.
  • Conduct multidisciplinary training on model court orders. This recommendation was implemented during the regional multidisciplinary training meetings that occurred from November 2004 through January 2005.
  • Draft statute that codifies the need for a court finding of paternity at early court hearings, such as at disposition, when possible. The statute already states that the court should inquire at every CINA hearing and make findings of fact on the record as to the identity and current address of each parent. The Absent Parent Identification Litany Form has been revised and was disseminated at the regional multidisciplinary training meetings. Some 'best practices' around the form and early identification will be developed by the end of 2005.
  • Provide continuous training of data entry personnel that takes into account turnover in the Clerk's Office. Three clerks/court personnel trainings were held in September 2004. A beginner's course and a more advanced course are scheduled for August and September 2005.
  • Establish or update a reduced fee panel for parent representation. The FCCIP co-sponsored a free CINA training with the Office of the Public Defender for attorneys in order to increase the number of attorneys available to represent parents on a pro bono basis or at a reduced rate.
  • Conduct an evaluation to determine the appropriate caseload maximums for all attorneys, including agency and parents' attorneys. The FCCIP is in the process of conducting a judicial and legal resource workload assessment.
  • Mandatory continuing education for judges and masters who hear child welfare cases, including accountability for failure to attend. The annual conferences have always been mandatory; however, more emphasis on follow-up by the Chief Judge occurred at the October 2004 conference, which increased the number in attendance.
  • Mandatory training programs for all new attorneys and continuing education for all attorneys that practice child welfare law. Attorneys throughout the state that practice in the child welfare area were invited to the Second Attorney Conference sponsored by the FCCIP in October 2004. Approximately 180 attorneys attended. Topics included in the Conference were case law updates, mental health issues, and evidence. Attorneys were invited to the ADR and CINA Court Conference and will be invited to the Multidisciplinary Day of the Judicial Conference. There are plans to offer a half-day training on the new Permanency for Families and Children Act of 2005.
  • Provide additional cross-disciplinary training. Regional multidisciplinary training meetings were held from November 2004 through January 2005. Judges, masters, PPLs, court personnel, attorneys, child welfare agency staff, CASAs, Citizen Review Board members, and juvenile justice staff from each jurisdiction were invited. Topics included status of Title IV-E review and the Child and Family Services Review, judicial determinations and court orders, and best practice issues around continuances, early identification and location of parents, concurrent planning, APPLA scenarios and documentation, and notification to caretakers/foster parents.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Reassessment

As noted in FCCIP Evaluation, the ABA Center on Children and the Law completed an evaluation of the FCCIP in the summer of 2004. The federal Children's Bureau agreed to accept the evaluation as Maryland's reassessment.

The FCCIP is also conducting a judicial and legal workload assessment. The data was collected during the clerks/court personnel trainings in September 2004, and at the judicial and attorney conferences in October 2004. The data input and analysis was completed in May 2005. The final report is expected to be complete in August 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Maryland participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in November 2003. To help the state prepare for this review, the FCCIP staff coordinated six regional multidisciplinary meetings to address practice issues. The FCCIP staff worked closely with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services by helping them gather documents, informing judges, masters, and attorneys of the process, and scheduling their interview times. The FCCIP also contacted the lead court person in the other two jurisdictions, offered technical assistance, and arranged a presentation by a child welfare agency staff member on what was involved in the CFSR process. One FCCIP staff member participated on the state evaluation team. The FCCIP chair, vice-chair, and staff were interviewed as part of one of the statewide stakeholders group interviews. The FCCIP staff also attended the exit meeting.

Maryland received its final report in June 2004. The FCCIP staff reviewed the report and provided all relevant court portions to the Chief Judge, all administrative judges, and all judges and masters hearing child welfare cases. The FCCIP worked with the lead masters from the three local onsite review jurisdictions and developed a draft court-related PIP. The Department of Human Resources asked the FCCIP staff to sit on three subcommittees in preparation for and implementation of the PIP, namely the Adoption, Independent Living, and Systemic Factors Subcommittees. The FCCIP works closely with the Department of Human Services to insure that the court-related issues of the PIP are addressed. The FCCIP Director is participating on the PIP Executive Committee. The PIP was received in March 2005.

Maryland is preparing for the second round of reviews by beginning to implement the court-related PIP items. The FCCIP is considering restructuring staff priorities so more time can be spent in the local courts.
Child and Family Services Review




Massachusetts


To Table of Contents

Guardian ad Litem Standards

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Probate and Family Court Department, through a contract with the Massachusetts branch of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, developed standards for guardians ad litem (GALs) appointed to investigate child welfare matters. The Standards for Investigations and Report Writing for Guardians ad Litem became effective January 24, 2005. These standards are applicable in all cases in which a GAL/investigator is appointed by a Probate and Family Court judge.

The Probate and Family Court Administrative Office, in conjunction with Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc., held five mandatory trainings for GALs. The trainings discussed the role of GAL investigators. In addition, the trainings covered the essential elements of the investigation including who to interview; what information to include in the report; the importance of balancing a child's right to confidentiality v. requesting a waiver of the psychotherapy privilege; and what to do when issues of mental illness, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence arise during the course of the investigation.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

Attorneys for Children and Parents

Over the past year, Massachusetts has increased the hourly rate paid to attorneys representing indigent defendants, including parents in child welfare cases. Attorneys who represent children also received a higher hourly rate. The Massachusetts Legislature appointed a panel to examine the problem of providing adequate representation to indigent individuals in the state. There is currently a shortage of attorneys willing to accept these cases. The panel's report is due in the summer of 2005.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

Permanency Transition Pilot Project

The Juvenile Court started a pilot project in Essex County to address the number of children aging out of foster care without a permanent placement or connection. Children in the custody of the Department of Social Services will be assigned to the Permanency Transition Pilot Project when they turn 16 years old. Children in the project will have a permanency hearing every six months rather than every 12 months as currently required by statute. The child will be encouraged to attend the hearing and may invite anyone to attend. Professionals, such as teachers, counselors, and coaches, may also attend and may be invited by the court, child's attorney, or social worker. The Department of Social Services has committed funds to provide the child with identified services. The goal is to remain focused on the child leaving the court system with a plan in place to obtain permanency and a connection once foster care ends.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
New/Innovative Projects

Care and Protection Triage Pilot Project

The Northampton Juvenile Court initiated a Care and Protection Triage Pilot Project, with the help of the Department of Social Services and the Committee for Public Counsel Services (agency providing indigent representation). It is based on the premise that not all cases should be placed on the trial track upon the filing of the Care and Protection Petition, while ensuring that all parties retain the right to proceed in court if they so choose. Accordingly, the goal of the Care and Protection Triage Pilot Project is to resolve the issues that led to the filing of the petition by utilizing a family-centered collaborative model. This model focuses on reunification of the parent and child in as timely a manner as possible, while monitoring the child's health, safety, and welfare and the Juvenile Court Time Standards for Care and Protection cases. The Project will utilize the services of outside facilitators to resolve cases, including the recommendation of services for parents and plans for reunification. The Project leaders are currently hiring facilitators.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Working Group on Psychopharmacology and Children

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Working Group on Psychopharmacology and Children developed guidelines and protocols governing the appointment and role of GALs when the Juvenile Court must authorize the administration of psychotropic medications to minors. A model affidavit for submission was developed and field tested. This affidavit systematically provides critical information for legal representation and judicial decision making. The Juvenile Court conducted an internal review of its procedures and is currently implementing the guidelines and protocols as a pilot project in Hampden County.

The training provided for the pilot project was very successful. The Juvenile Court provided a similar training for Juvenile Court judges at the Spring Judicial Conference. While the project continues in Hampden County, it will not be expanded to other locations until data is obtained and analyzed.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Pilot Projects
Training and Education
Training and Education: Judicial Training
New/Innovative Projects

Interagency Working Group on Adolescent Substance Abuse

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Juvenile Court Department is represented along with state agencies and service providers on an Interagency Working Group on Adolescent Substance Abuse. This Working Group designed a continuum of care for substance-abusing youth and their families, and members of the Group are actively collaborating with local community agencies and providers to implement the model care continuum in western Massachusetts.

Over the past year, the Interagency Working Group encountered a number of roadblocks in the area of substance abuse and child welfare cases. The stakeholders, including the Department of Social Services, the Juvenile Court, and the Wampanoag Tribe at Gay Head on Cape Cod, are the recipients of a technical assistance grant from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare to develop strategies for assisting this population. The consultant held his first meeting with representatives of public and private agencies and the court in February 2005.
Community Collaboration

Digital Recording Equipment

Both the Juvenile Court and the Probate and Family Court are piloting the use of digital recording equipment in some courts. Care and protection trials, as well as termination of parental rights trials, are currently recorded on tape. Resolution of inaudible testimony in trial transcripts causes delay in the appellate process while parties recreate the record. The use of digital recording equipment should address this problem. The pilot will provide information regarding ease of use, quality of the recording, and training and logistical requirements.
Technology
Technology: Equipment

Reassessment

The Muskie School of Public Service of the University of Southern Maine is conducting the Massachusetts reassessment. The reassessment team has completed site visits in Worcester County and Bristol County and is planning for the third of four total site visits. The Muskie School is expected to complete the reassessment by August 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Massachusetts participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in 2001. Both the Probate and Family Court Department and the Juvenile Court Department participated in the CFSR as stakeholders.

The Program Improvement Plan (PIP) was approved in March 2003. One of the PIP goals related to the improvement of legal and court processes was to improve timely permanency for children. Court Improvement Project Steering Committee members participated in the development of the PIP action steps particularly related to permanency hearings. The results of the Massachusetts reassessment will be used to measure the improved handling of child welfare cases and expedited permanency hearings.

Massachusetts was notified in March 2005 that it had successfully completed all of the PIP requirements. At present, no date has been set for the second review.
Child and Family Services Review




Michigan


To Table of Contents

http://www.supremecourt.state.mi.us/programs/cip

Child Welfare Services Division of the State Court Administrative Office

Since August 2002, when the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) combined the Court Improvement Project (CIP) with the Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) Program, substantial time and energy has been expended in developing the Child Welfare Services (CWS) Division of the SCAO. CWS is currently responsible for overseeing the CIP and the FCRB; providing statewide training for attorneys, judges, and child welfare professionals; and developing projects that give priority to legal and judicial issues identified in the state's Program Improvement Plan (PIP). CWS is the state's contact point for any court-related issues pertaining to the Title IV-E review and Child and Family Services Review (CFSR).

CWS, with CIP funds, has been instrumental in convening numerous workgroups with representatives from the state child welfare agency, the judiciary, the FCRB, and other stakeholders. These workgroups have resulted in proposed legislation to address issues in current child welfare law and joint proposals for federal grants, among other initiatives.

A significant portion of CIP funds has been earmarked for the development of CWS. One goal is to maximize resources by seeking grant opportunities and matching funds to help finance proposed projects throughout Michigan.
Community Collaboration

Permanency Planning Mediation Program

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Michigan CIP has developed and expanded its Permanency Planning Mediation Program (PPMP) since its inception in 1998. Now in its seventh year, PPMP has had pilot projects in eight sites. An additional program was initiated in Wayne County that was funded through CIP, but not included in the original pilot. Reports from existing pilot projects consistently indicated strong judicial support and generally high satisfaction from the participants in mediation. The number of referrals decreased, however, and many of the courts were unable to consider long-term funding for the centers, due to decreased funding of their own courts.

Individual center viability was closely scrutinized to determine if continued funding was the best use of CIP financial resources. Only one site, the Northern Mediation Center, consistently met all of the PPMP goals. As a result, funding for the Northern Mediation Center was maintained, but alternative use of the PPMP was explored to maximize resources and assist the largest number of children in foster care. CWS assisted the other centers by addressing alternative funding sources through brokering meetings with other state agencies.

CWS devoted significant resources attempting to start a PPMP in Wayne County. Once it was determined that Wayne County did not have the infrastructure necessary to support the project, it was postponed. Overall, due to the time, energy, and expense spent on PPMP, CWS decided that the project should be continued to address contested adoptions or certain post-termination cases through existing Mediation Centers. A meeting was held in April 2005 to address these issues and consider funding with the monies originally earmarked for the Wayne County project. Efforts to establish a mediation program targeted at barriers to post-termination permanency continues. Progress in Wayne County continues to be slow, so some consideration has been given to piloting it in another county. The goal is to have 50 - 100 cases targeted with some start-up funds from PPMP by the end of 2005.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Absent Parent Protocol

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Michigan piloted an 'Absent Parent Protocol' to assist with finding parents earlier in the child welfare legal process. The Court Improvement Progress Report 2002 details the goals of the Protocol. The CIP awarded the contract to Children's Charter of the Courts of Michigan, which developed both the Protocol and the training module. The Protocol includes supportive materials such as affidavits of diligent search and checklists for practitioners. A PowerPoint training piece was developed to train and support local leadership in implementing the Protocol.

The Protocol was successfully piloted in three counties. Michigan's Foster Care Review Board is tracking agency efforts to identify absent parents. During 2005, CWS will work to integrate the Absent Parent Protocol into practice as part of the Child and Family Service Review Program Improvement Plan and provide cross training and technical assistance for those involved in child protective proceedings. In addition, the CWS Deputy Director who is responsible for this project is establishing collaborative agreements among Michigan's Friend of the Court (FOC) system, the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the courts. The purpose of these agreements is to connect foster care workers and the courts to the resources available through FOC and OCSE to facilitate extensive searches for the absent parent.
Notice to and Participation of Parties
Notice to and Participation of Parties: Notice

Permanency Indicators Court Report

As reported extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the SCAO is required to issue an annual report detailing judicial efforts to provide timely permanency for children. Specifically, the legislation requires the SCAO to detail trial court adherence to required state and federal time frames and provide specific reasons for a court's failure to comply. SCAO has made progress toward implementation of the Permanency Indicators Court Report, in several areas including the following:

  • User needs, system capabilities, and system capacity in all of Michigan's trial courts have been surveyed and analyzed.
  • A needs assessment and infrastructure review for key non-Judicial Information System (JIS) courts has been conducted.
  • Regular maintenance procedures have been established.
  • A timeline for the quarterly submission of reports has been established.
  • An implementation plan, software, and design specifications have been developed.
  • System specifications to enable the report card to be folded into Michigan's existing caseflow management system have been established.
  • Substantial court report card testing with five non-JIS trial courts has been completed.

It is expected that the Permanency Indicators Court Report will be fully operational by late 2006, with the first reports in 2007. As part of the implementation, CWS has continued collaborating with Management and Systems Analysts from the SCAO's JIS and Trial Court Services Divisions.
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Evaluation

Substance Abuse Grant

In 2003, Michigan received an intensive technical assistance grant from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. With funds from this grant, Michigan has accomplished the following:

  • Community Forums. Michigan conducted eight community forums intended as an initial step in improving response to parental substance abuse in child protection proceedings.
  • Statewide Technical Assistance Days. Six training and technical assistance days were conducted for communities interested in improving their substance abuse services in child welfare cases.
  • Protocol for Screening, Assessment, Engagement, and Recovery. The state team developed a comprehensive tool to screen, assess, and engage parents in substance abuse services as a resource for all stakeholders in child welfare cases. The protocol describes the critical practice elements for three primary systems (courts, child welfare, and alcohol and drug services). The responsibilities of each system are described for each step in identifying the parental substance abuse issues, and developing and monitoring a recovery strategy.
  • Family Treatment Drug Courts. Michigan currently has two established Family Treatment Drug Courts and is planning three more.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Absent Without Legal Permission (AWOLP) Children

In October 2002, the Michigan Supreme Court initiated efforts to require circuit courts to assist the child welfare agency in locating children who are identified as being Absent Without Legal Permission (AWOLP), i.e., court wards who left their court-ordered placement without authority to do so. Courts with children appearing on the list of AWOLP children were required to take immediate action to locate them and to report the progress of their efforts to SCAO. On November 19, 2002, the Michigan Supreme Court entered Administrative Order 2002-4, which required all circuit courts to develop a plan for reviewing cases of AWOLP children. As a result of the plans, judges designated to review cases of AWOLP children are notified monthly when their court has children appearing on the child welfare agency's AWOLP list. The judges are responsible for ensuring that a monthly report is submitted to the SCAO regarding the status of their efforts to locate these children.

Despite the best efforts of the courts and agencies, children continue to appear as AWOLP. Most of these are older children who have voluntarily left a court-ordered placement. Children under the age of 12 are reported as AWOLP less frequently, but are more likely to have been abducted. In 2003, 764 children were reported missing, including 96 who were missing twice and eight who were missing three times. In 73 percent of the cases, the child was located. The location rate was even better in 2004, with 79 percent of AWOLP children being found.

Shortly after the AWOLP problem came to light, Wayne County, which accounts for more than half of all of AWOLP children in the state, formed the AWOLP Task Force to address related issues. The Task Force, which meets regularly, includes consultants from the Annie Casey Foundation; DHS administrators and private agencies servicing Wayne County; social scientists from the University of Michigan; mental health professionals, including the Director of Community Mental Health; juvenile justice experts; judges; and the Director of CWS.

Noting that girls on AWOLP status pose special problems for the system, several innovative projects have been developed as a result of the work of the AWOLP Task Force. Since the opening of a specially designed group home, girls on AWOLP status are no longer detained in the juvenile detention facility when apprehended. Peer counseling, which involves girls who were previously truant and who now serve as mentors, is being piloted in the largest girl's treatment facility in Wayne County.

Due to the success of the Task Force's efforts and the need to address additional issues, the Task Force was expanded in June 2004. To reflect its new mission for dealing with at-risk children, and to incorporate the recommendations of the Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan, the Task Force is now known as the Wayne County Children and Youth Collaborative Counsel, with an emphasis on cross-system resources and blended funding for services.

In addition, CWS has mounted a best practices approach to this problem. Regular monthly meetings, which include a state Supreme Court justice, chief judges of the circuit courts, and the Deputy Director of CWS, monitor progress in finding AWOLP children. One idea is to have a meeting of court administrators and other key agency personnel to discuss best practices in locating AWOLP youth and to determine solutions to prevent the need to leave placement. It is anticipated that a best practices manual will be developed as a result of this meeting to distribute to the courts sometime in early 2006. In the interim, the court's website has a section devoted to the AWOLP docket, http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/services/CWS/AWOLP/awolp.htm, which includes guidelines for locating missing children in Mexico.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives
New and Innovative Programs

Reassessment

The State Court Administrative Office contracted with the Muskie School of Public Service of the University of Southern Maine, in partnership with the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law, to conduct the reassessment. The evaluators have completed onsite reviews, case file reviews, stakeholder interviews, judicial surveys, focus groups, and related research and examination of best practices. The reassessment will evaluate Michigan's efforts related to the following CIP endeavors:

  • Implementation of the Michigan Lawyer-Guardian ad Litem. The reassessment will explore whether the advent of the L-GAL Protocol has had an impact on legal practices in child protective proceedings; identify any barriers tending to affect attorney performance; and provide recommendations for improvement.
  • Adoption in Michigan. The reassessment will explore adoption practices in Michigan's trial court; identify any barriers tending to jeopardize Michigan's ability to maintain and/or exceed the national standard; and provide recommendations for improvement.
  • Absent Parent Protocol. The reassessment will explore progress toward identifying and locating absent parents early in the proceedings; identify any barriers; and provide recommendations for improvement.
  • Caseload Management. The reassessment will explore and assess Michigan's overall progress relative to conducting statutory and procedural court hearings in a timely and substantive manner; identify any barriers tending to affect the timely disposition of dependency cases; and provide recommendations for improvement.

The original three counties assessed were included in the reassessment, as well as three additional counties. A final report is expected in September 2005. CWS convened an Advisory Committee meeting to review the recommendations in the last draft and has already begun developing an action plan to implement the top ten recommendations.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Michigan participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2002. In April 2003, in accordance with the Program Improvement Plan (PIP), the CIP and FCRB implemented a targeted quality assurance pilot in 19 counties. The goal of the pilot is to measure Michigan's progress toward certain outcomes and gauge progress toward substantial conformity when Michigan participates in the next CFSR. The CIP and FCRB formed a workgroup comprised of child welfare agency managers, FCRB staff and volunteers, and a staff member from the National Center on Crime and Delinquency to develop pilot groups, survey methods, and an instrument for measuring outcomes. In addition, the CIP and FCRB are assisting the child welfare agency with an evaluation of every line of its service delivery to children and families.

Several other PIP items have been identified as requiring input from the State Court Administrative Office. Some of these include:

  • Stability of foster care placement. The FCRB modified its case reading form to detail the reasons why children are placed two or more times in the first twelve months of foster care. Under the direction of the Deputy Director of CWS, the FCRB will begin to provide information to the effected counties for quality review purposes. The FCRB data will not be used in the PIP for purposes of measuring baselines and improvements due to a lack of a centralized data system, but DHS will be apprised of data collected. DHS and CWS have met to begin structuring a shared information system to benefit both the agency and the courts. In addition, FCRB is in the process of evaluating its own data collection process to more fully benefit the state.
  • Reunification, guardianship, or permanency placement with relatives. Although the state is effective in finding relatives as a permanent placement option for children, Michigan does not have a supported guardianship program that provides financial assistance beyond federal welfare funds. Michigan also does not regularly formalize relative placement through legal guardianship. In response, CWS took an active role in proposing a waiver demonstration project for DHS to obtain Title IV-E monies to implement a subsidized guardianship program. In addition to drafting a significant portion of the waiver, the Director of CWS convened a workgroup to draft legislation to facilitate the demonstration project, as well as to support the placement of children with relatives. Although DHS could not craft a program that would be cost neutral to the state and federal governments, the legislative piece of the proposal was still pursued by CWS. Legislation was enacted in December 2004 that expanded the state's definition of relative to be consistent with the federal definition, which includes the parent of the biological father provided there is no legal father.
  • Needs and services of child, parents, and foster parents. Due to deficiencies identified in substance abuse services, Michigan sought and received a grant from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare in August 2003, which is addressed in Substance Abuse Grant.
  • Educational needs of children in foster care. In some cases, educational assessments had not been completed to identify educational needs or needs had been identified and services were not provided. Focus groups identified lack of tutoring and special education services for children in foster care as a common problem. Although SCAO was not initially identified as having a role in improving this outcome, since the time the PIP was submitted, CWS facilitated several meetings with the Office of Children's Ombudsmen and the Child Welfare Institute of FIA/DHS. From these meetings a workgroup, which also included the Governor's Task Force on Children's Justice, was formed to plan a conference that was held in March 2005 to address the educational needs of children in foster care. Based on the information collected at the conference, CWS will begin drafting an educational protocol that will act as a roadmap for those involved in the child welfare system. Targeting educational concerns for older children aging out of foster care, the Director of CWS proposed a writing/academic resource center. The center will initially focus on children 14 to 20 years old who are in the foster care system. If additional funding is available, it will also include those who have spent time in the foster care system, but are no longer court wards. Several private agencies and the Wayne County Circuit Court Juvenile Division have expressed an interest in having the center physically located at their facilities. Foundations, such as the James E. Casey Foundation Youth in Transition Project and the Thompson Foundation have also been approached. Efforts are continuing to develop the project. There have been several strategy meetings, which are now including the prospect of developing an accompanying charter school for children in foster care. Although CWS has received positive responses to the overall concepts, funding has not yet been obtained.
  • Improved mental health services for children. Stakeholders reported that mental health services are difficult to access and that recent changes in mental health provisions under Medicaid have created confusion about where to obtain services. Concerns about the quality of mental health service providers were also noted. Recognizing the importance of the delivery of mental health services to at-risk families in the child welfare system, the Medicaid Redesign Group was formed to address these issues. This collaborative effort, which includes representatives from the Family Independence Agency, DHS, and CWS, focuses on currently available services while moving toward overall systemic reform in Michigan. The Group continues to work on the development of an overarching plan that includes identifying children and families involved in the child welfare system as a priority population. The Group has developed a set of recommendations that are under consideration by state level executive management. Due to the success of the educational conference discussed above, a similar conference is being planned to address mental health issues for families in the foster care system, to be held in March 2006. A state mental health protocol will be the goal.
  • Establishing permanency planning hearings. Statewide assessment found that only 59 percent of cases had a permanency planning hearing in accordance with the 12-month timeframe established by state statute. Furthermore, stakeholders expressed concern that although the hearing may be held timely, it often did not focus on permanency issues. CWS has taken an active role in alleviating this problem. A workgroup, headed by the Director of CWS, was formed before the PIP was approved to begin the corrective process. Drafts of proposed statutes to tighten the time frames and bring Michigan into stricter compliance with the federal regulations were provided to the Legislature in October 2004. The legislation also included relevant Title IV-E regulations. The legislation was enacted in December 2004 and took immediate effect. Training has been ongoing on CFSR requirements and Title IV-E regulations as they pertain to the statutory requirements for permanency planning hearings. CWS has been recommending that all hearings for the year, (including review hearings and the permanency planning hearing), be scheduled at the conclusion of the initial disposition hearing, to ensure availability of all parties and counsel, as well as to comply with time limitations. Compliance will eventually be tracked through the Permanency Planning Indicators Court Report.

Michigan is preparing for the second round of reviews. DHS has quality assurance teams conducting doing case reviews and stakeholder interviews in preparation for the second round.
Child and Family Services Review
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
New/Innovative Projects




Minnesota


To Table of Contents

Children's Justice Initiative

The focus of the Minnesota Court Improvement Project continues to be the Children's Justice Initiative (CJI), which has been discussed extensively in prior Court Improvement Reports. The purpose of the CJI is for the Supreme Court and the Department of Human Services to work closely with the juvenile courts, social services departments, attorneys, and other key stakeholders in each of Minnesota's 87 counties to improve the processing of child protection cases and the outcomes for abused and neglected children. More information about the CJI can be found on the CJI website, http://www.courts.state.mn.us/ChildrensJustice/.

Initially, the Chief Justice designated a lead judge in 12 pilot counties, and each lead judge in turn established a multidisciplinary team comprised of key systems stakeholders. The lead judge and county team identify areas needing reform and ways to achieve improvement. When identifying and implementing improvements, the goal is for all stakeholders to operate 'through the eyes of the child.' As of November 2003, all remaining counties began participation in the CJI, making it a true statewide project involving every juvenile court in every county.

As of May 2004, each of Minnesota's 87 counties was using the County Practice Guide: Best Practices for Achieving Safe, Permanent, and Nurturing Homes for Abused and Neglected Children [MN-04-02] to assess their local practices and procedures. Based on these assessments, each county sent a copy of its resulting Action Plan to the CIP staff. The CIP staff has analyzed the Action Plans and identified statewide themes and trends. The CIP staff will continue to provide ongoing technical assistance to aid the counties in making improvements.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

GAL System Improvements

Minnesota has been working to improve the GAL system statewide. Prior to 2001, the system was comprised of 87 county-funded programs, with insufficient uniformity across programs. In July 2001, the Minnesota Legislature transitioned funding of all GAL programs from each county to the state in an effort to increase the overall effectiveness. The GAL system is now a collaborative partnership between the Office of the State Court Administrator and the ten Judicial Districts. Minnesota has a combination of state employees, independent contractors, and volunteers serving as GALs. While the GAL program is 'state supervised and supported,' it is 'judicial district administered.' Each District GAL program configures its program in the way that optimally serves its bench and delivers the most cost-effective, high-quality service to the judges and the children in their counties.

Since the implementation of the GAL improvements, the following statistics have been compiled:

  • Appointments on 'Priority 1 Cases' (Mandated Appointments on Abuse/Neglect Cases): Since state funding commenced in July 2001, coverage on mandated abuse/neglect cases increased from only 50 percent of all cases to 97 percent by year-end 2004. In year 2000, GALs were covering 2,900 Priority 1 cases representing approximately 4,350 children in Juvenile Court. As of July 2004, GALs are covering 4,629 cases representing 8,252 children in Juvenile Court.
  • Appointments on Priority 2 Cases (Dissolution) and Priority 3 Cases (Other 'Permissive' Cases): In 2000, GALs were appointed on a total of 1,880 Priority 2 cases and 1,720 Priority 3 cases. As of July 2004, GALs are covering 1,575 Priority 2 and 1,472 Priority 3 cases, representing a decline of 16 percent on Priority 2 and 15 percent on Priority 3 cases between July 2001 and now. This reduction in representation on non-mandatory cases was necessary due to budget cuts amounting to $1 million or 10 percent of total budget in 2003.
  • Cases by Priority Level: Despite the dramatic increase in coverage of Priority 1 cases and a slight decrease in Priority 2 and 3 assignments, there continues to be significant resources going to Priority 2 (20 percent) and Priority 3 (20 percent) cases.
  • Total Cases and Children Served: At the inception of state funding, the 53 GAL programs were serving approximately 5,600 cases representing about 9,000 children. As of July 2004, the 10 District GAL programs are serving 8,000 cases involving about 13,000 children.
  • GAL Budget: At the inception of state funding, the 87 counties were spending approximately $6.5 million on GAL services. The GAL programs in FY04 spent $8.6 million, for an increase in spending of about $2 million since 2000. The total cost per case served has decreased slightly, from $1,160 to $1,119, despite the budget increase due to the increase in overall cases.
  • Administrative Structure: Since July 2001 the number of discrete GAL programs has shrunk from 53 to 10, the number of GAL Coordinators and Managers has decreased from 65 to 37, and the total number of FTE's dropped from 37.5 to 35 despite the creation of a District GAL administrative structure.
  • Administrative Costs: Management costs (manager's and coordinator's salaries) have increased slightly from $1,760,000 million in 2000 to $1,787,000 in 2004. As a percentage of total budget, however, the share spent on management has decreased from 27 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2004.
  • Pay Equity: At the inception of state funding, there was a vast range of compensation for GALs, from $8 hr to $65 hr, irrespective of experience. The average hourly rate was approximately $14 to $15 per hour. With implementation of the state contract in FY04, comparable and equitable pay was achieved and the average hourly is now about $18 per hour.
  • Compliance and Performance: Minnesota is now 100 percent compliant with federal and state mandates to provide a GAL in every juvenile protection case. In addition, GALs are following the Rules of GAL Procedure. Prior to GAL reforms, several jurisdictions were noncompliant with rules regarding background checks, CEU requirements, annual performance reviews, and responses to formal complaints. In the last two years, every paid GAL in the state has undergone two performance (contract) reviews and has been held accountable for their CEU requirement and other performance measures.
  • Quality Assurance: Now that the statewide infrastructure has been established to support consistent and accountable GAL advocacy,
Minnesota is developing and implementing a Quality Assurance Program to insure children, families, judges, the public, and other professionals are satisfied with the quality of the GAL Program and to solicit input regarding potential improvements.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

Public Defender Workgroup

In Minnesota, the court determines whether appointment of counsel is appropriate for a parent or child. If an affirmative determination is made, the court appoints a state-funded public defender to represent children age 10 and older, as well as custodial parents. Children under age 10 and non-custodial parents are represented by other attorneys paid for at county expense. As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, since the caseloads of Minnesota's public defenders are well in excess of state standards, the Minnesota Chief Justice and the Minnesota State Public Defender convened a Public Defender Workgroup comprised of judges, public defenders, social workers, county attorneys, and GALs. The purpose of the Workgroup was to identify more effective means of ensuring quality legal representation for parents and children in child protection cases. The Workgroup determined that 69 additional full-time public defenders were needed in the CJI counties to fully handle all child protection cases. In January 2003, a proposal was submitted to the Minnesota Legislature to seek funding for the additional positions. No additional funding was appropriated, and the Workgroup discontinued meeting just prior to the session. In 2004, the Minnesota Legislature denied requests for additional funding. The Minnesota State Public Defender again sought funding in the 2005 Legislative Session and also sought to be relieved of the responsibility to represent parents in child protection cases. The Legislature did not rule on either of these two requests but, instead, requested that the State Court Administrator convene a workgroup to study and make recommendations about the appropriate assignment and use of limited public defender resources and ways to minimize court-related child protection proceedings through early intervention such as mediation and family group conferencing. The report is due to the Legislature on January 16, 2006.

As a result of the lack of funding, judges in nearly every county are able to appoint counsel only for custodial parents and not for noncustodial parents. The appointment of counsel for children varies from county to county. Judges continue to meet with public defenders, county attorneys, and court staff in each judicial district to examine scheduling and case management practices so as to assist public defenders in maximizing the effectiveness of court time.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

CJI-AOD Project

In 2005, the CJI started the Children's Justice Initiative - Alcohol and Other Drugs (CJI-AOD) Project to serve families affected by alcohol and drug problems. The mission of the CJI - AOD Project 'is to ensure abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile protection court system have safe, stable, permanent families by improving parental and family recovery from alcohol or other drug problems.' A core team including representatives from the counties, as well as the child protection, juvenile protection, and chemical dependency systems, are working with the CJI ' AOD State Advisory Committee to develop the Project.

The Project will be piloted initially in three counties: Itasca, Ramsey, and Stearns, with broader implementation over five years. The goals of the Project include the following:

  • Have parents engaged earlier in the process of assessment, treatment, and recovery.
  • Improve practices through cross-systems collaboration and the use of team-based and relationship-focused approaches.
  • Increase reunification supports and services.
  • Improve the knowledge base of community members and stakeholders regarding families' needs and resources.

The core team will achieve these goals through implementation of best practices, improvement of individualized planning and services, and improved training on the impact of alcohol and drug problems on child welfare. The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare is providing technical assistance to the Project.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Rules of Adoption Procedure

As discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Juvenile Protection Rules Committee was charged with the task of drafting Rules of Adoption Procedure. In February 2004, the Committee submitted its Final Report and Proposed Rules of Adoption Procedure to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Minnesota Supreme Court approved the Rules of Adoption Procedure, effective January 1, 2005.

By promulgating these Rules, the Court intends to provide procedural guidance to judges and adoption law practitioners who presently have no such guidance and must look to the statutes to determine how to proceed. Previously, given the lack of guidance, each county developed its own procedures. For example, some judges believed that discovery should be allowed in adoption proceedings and others did not. Similarly, there were disparities between the findings that need to be made and the content of the final adoption decree. The Rules of Adoption Procedure establish uniform practices and procedures statewide so that attorneys, petitioners, and families can expect similar treatment throughout the state. In addition, the Rules serve as a 'how-to' guide for judges and practitioners in all types of adoptions, such as stepparent adoptions, intercounty adoptions, and adoptions resulting from termination of parental rights in child protection matters.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Case Management Information System

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, Minnesota redesigned its case management information system and is now using the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS). Using this new system, the CJI can track case-specific information and run data summary reports on a statewide, district, or county-by-county basis.

The CJI developed its own outcome standards, performance measures, and targets based on the goals of child safety, permanency, and well being. Some of the standards, and corresponding measures and targets as identified in a January 2005 draft (see Children's Justice Initiative Core Standards & Measures [MN-05-01]) include the following:

  • Standard: Permanency progress review hearings for children under 8 occur by six months of placement. Measure: Percent of children under 8 with out-of-home placement (OHP) over 365 days at most recent permanent placement determination. 2005 Target: 3.2%. 2008 Target: 5%.
  • Standard: Permanency hearings for all children occur by 12 months of placement. Measure: Percent of all children with OHP over 365 days at most recent permanent placement determination. Average length of OHP for all children at most recent permanent placement determination. 2005 Target: 19%. 2008 Target: 10%.
  • Standard: Orders for permanent placement of children, including reunification, are filed 30 days after permanency hearing. Measure: Percent of cases with any order filed within 30 days of permanent placement determination. 2005 Target: 75%. 2008 Target: 95%.
  • Standard: One judge handles the case from filing through permanent disposition, including trial. Measure: Average number of judges per case. 2005 Target: 1.9. 2008 Target: 1.5. Measure: Percent of cases with three or more judges. 2005 Target: 22.7%. 2008 Target: 15%.
  • Standard: GAL is assigned on all cases. Measure: Percent of children appointed or assigned a GAL. 2005 Target: 96.6%. 2008 Target: 100%.
  • Standard: Adjudication or dismissal occurs within 60 days of the first hearing. Measure: Percent of cases that are adjudicated within 60 days of first hearing. 2005 Target: 75%. 2008 Target: 95%. Measure: Percent of nonadjudicated cases that are dismissed within 60 days of the first hearing. 2005 Target: 75%. 2008 Target: 95%.
  • Standard: All children are represented by counsel. Measure: Percent of all children represented by counsel. 2005 Target: 27.5%. 2008 Target: Not set. Measure: Percent of children 10 and over represented by counsel. 2005 Target: 53.4%. 2008 Target: Not set.
  • Standard: All parents are represented by counsel. Measure: Percent of cases in which all parents are represented by counsel. 2005 Target: 41.7%. 2008 Target: Not set. Measure: Percent of cases in which any parent is represented by counsel. 2005 Target: 71.95. 2008 Target: Not set.
  • Standard: In-court review hearings are held at least every 90 days after adjudication. Measure: Percent of cases with first in-court hearing within 90 days of adjudication. 2005 Target: 75%. 2008 Target: 95%

In addition, the Core Standards & Measures draft for January 2005 contains statistics for 2002, 2003, and the first half of 2004.
Technology
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Reassessment

Minnesota has gathered outcome-specific data from 27 counties, as well as generic statewide data. The CJI is currently analyzing the data. The CJI will submit the reassessment report to the Administration for Children and Families in June 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

The Children and Family Service Review (CFSR) onsite review was conducted in Minnesota in May 2001. Minnesota's Department of Human Services handled the actual review, with little CIP involvement. Minnesota was found not to be in substantial conformity with the seven areas of safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes. Minnesota's Program Improvement Program (PIP) was approved in June 2002. Attention was given to five major strategies, each of which addresses one or more of the outcome areas. In addition, the PIP includes clarification or guidance on seven policy areas and provision of screening tools and training related to children's mental health.

The CIP is involved in the PIP process through the CJI staff. The Department of Human Services (DHS) is conducting CFSR style reviews in 20 counties each year to assess and resolve any concerns prior to the next federal CFSR. CJI staff provided input to DHS regarding the court-related information that should be gathered from file reviews and interviews. DHS is creating a database designed to provide reports regarding each county's status and statewide data. Among the reports that will be generated are those dealing with court-related topics. CJI staff use those reports as yet another tool to review statewide progress and areas needing improvement.
Child and Family Services Review




Missouri


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http://www.osca.state.mo.us

Second Circuit/Twenty-Third Circuit Permanency Planning Project Court

As addressed in detail in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Missouri Juvenile Court Improvement Project (JCIP) sponsored two model court pilot projects in the 2nd and 23rd Judicial Circuits that now receive state funding. The Institute of Applied Research (IAR) conducted an evaluation of the model courts, the results of which were discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004 and detailed in the Missouri Juvenile Court Improvement Project for Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, Eighth Annual Report, July 2003 [MO-03-02]. Major IAR recommendations and the JCIP's efforts to implement them include the following:

  • Recommendation: The procedures embodied in the JCIP should be implemented across the state, in conjunction with the Family-Centered Out-of-Home (FCOH) Care Program. Action: The Missouri Resource Guide for Best Practices in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, which embodies procedures in the JCIP, was produced and distributed to all judges and family court commissioners who hear child abuse and neglect cases. As previously reported, in May and June 2003, the Resource Guide and the best practices recommendations were introduced at seven regional multidisciplinary workshops conducted throughout the state. In the spring of 2005, comprehensive child welfare conferences were held at five regional sites throughout the state. These conferences, made possible through a partnership between the judiciary and the Children's Division (state child welfare agency) brought together multidisciplinary teams to address barriers to achieving timely permanency for children. Specifically, these groups addressed problems experienced in achieving time standards for hearings in child abuse/ neglect cases that were mandated by the Missouri legislature in 2004. They also developed plans for complying with provisions of the law, requiring that hearings and records in child abuse/ neglect and termination of parental rights cases be open effective July 1, 2005. Judges and family court commissioners who hear child abuse and neglect cases were required by the Supreme Court to attend the conferences. Participants also included juvenile officers, family court administrators, juvenile court attorneys, guardians ad litem, CASA volunteers, court clerks, and staff from the Department of Social Services, Children's Division and Division of Legal Services.
  • Recommendation: Full-time guardians ad litem should be utilized within cost constraints to represent children in Juvenile Court. Action: Budgetary restrictions preclude employment of full-time guardians ad litem in most courts.
  • Recommendation: State statutes should be clarified to permit permanency within the shortened timeframes envisioned by the JCIP. Action: HB 1453, enacted in 2004, establishes timeframes for hearings in child abuse/ neglect cases. The law provides for a mandatory court proceeding to be held within three business days of a child's removal from the home. It also requires an adjudication hearing within 60 days and a dispositional hearing within 90 days after the child has been taken into custody as well as review hearings every 90 to 120 days for the first year the child is in custody. After the first year, review hearings must be held as necessary, but in no event less than once every six months for as long as the child is in the custody of the Division. Supreme Court Rule 119.01 also requires that a permanency hearing be held within the first 12 months, or within 30 days if the child welfare agency is not required to make reasonable efforts to reunify the family, and at least annually thereafter.
  • Recommendation: Problems meeting timeframes and requirements for review hearings should be resolved. Action: These issues are being addressed through the 2005 comprehensive child welfare conferences and through the provisions of HB 1453 and Supreme Court Rules, which establish timeframes for reviews and other hearings. Three rules have been adopted: Rule 119.10 Continuances. This rule provides that a hearing may be continued within the time frames established by HB 1453 and Supreme Court Rule only for good cause shown, and outside the time frames only for compelling circumstances supported by written findings. Continuances must be to a fixed date and time; hearings may not be continued more than 30 days unless all parties agree. Rule 119.11 Untimely Hearings. This rule provides that any party may file an application for an expedited hearing if a hearing is not scheduled to occur nor held within the applicable time frames. Court Operating Rule 23 Reporting Requirements for Child Abuse and Neglect Cases. This rule requires the presiding judge of each circuit to submit quarterly reports identifying hearings not held within the applicable time frames. Copies of the reports are to be transmitted by the Office of State Courts Administrator to the Supreme Court and to the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline. Summary data is to be published in the Judiciary's annual report. Compliance with these rules will be monitored through submissions of the quarterly reports required by Court Operating Rule 23. In addition, in September 2004, the Office of State Courts Administrator began capturing data regarding compliance with the time frames. Data is available through JIS or through manual reporting forms that are submitted monthly by non-JIS sites. In July, the Office of State Courts Administrator filled a position whose job duties include insuring that information is timely submitted, assisting courts/juvenile offices with data entry/reporting procedures, monitoring compliance with the time standards, and developing summary reports for use at the state and local level. Juvenile Court Improvement Project funds support this position.
  • Recommendation: Juvenile Office resources should be increased, with sufficient Deputy Juvenile Officers specializing in child abuse and neglect cases hired. Action: Missouri continues to experience budgetary shortfalls with limited additional resources available for public sector staffing/programs.
  • Recommendation: Division of Family Services personnel levels must be adequate to accommodate the workload of the JCIP and FCOH. Action: Missouri continues to experience budgetary shortfalls with limited additional resources for public sector/staffing programs.

Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
Court Staffing
Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

Court Rules

In addition to the Supreme Court Rules discussed in Second Circuit/Twenty-Third Circuit Permanency Planning Project Court, a multidisciplinary workgroup was established in October 2004 to review the Rules of Practice and Procedure in Juvenile Courts and to recommend revisions necessary to comply with the directives of HB 1453, as well as address any inconsistencies or omissions in the current rules. In March 2005, the Supreme Court adopted rules on open hearings and open records, proposed by the workgroup. The rules were drafted in response to provisions of HB 1453 which require that by July 1, 2005, hearings in child abuse/ neglect and termination of parental rights cases be open. Pleadings and orders are to be open in cases where the initial pleadings are filed on or after July 1, 2005.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

Juvenile Court Automation

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the juvenile component of the new Missouri Justice Information System (JIS) is being implemented. As of June 30, 2005, the component is operational in 34 of the state's 45 judicial circuits. These circuits incorporate 82 of the state's 115 counties and the independent city of St. Louis. It is anticipated that statewide implementation will be complete in 2006.

Milestone Tracking, a functionality of JIS, may be used by juvenile court judges/ family court commissioners, court administrators, clerks, juvenile officers, and others to determine the due dates for specific hearings. Court staff enters the date the child was taken into protective custody and the system determines the dates by which the adjudication, disposition, and first annual permanency hearing must be completed to comply with requirements set by statute and rule. The system also uses the dates the dispositional hearings and review hearings were held to assist in scheduling subsequent reviews. Delay codes are entered for hearings not held by the due dates. Reports from the system assist in determining the number of hearings by type that are held both within and outside the timeframes and the reasons that any hearings are delayed.

Efforts to link the child welfare agency to the system have been effective. Data from JIS and from the databases of participating agencies are extracted into the Missouri Juvenile Justice Information System (MOJJIS). A number of agencies, including Juvenile and Family Courts and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Mental Health, Social Services, and Elementary and Secondary Education share information through MOJJIS. Once the information is extracted into MOJJIS, authorized users can access the information. This system aids in developing a broader view of the type of interaction a particular juvenile has had with other agencies so that more comprehensive treatment and planning can occur.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
Technology: Internet Development

Reassessment

Missouri awarded a contract for data collection and reassessment to the Institute of Applied Research (IAR) in March 2004. In December 2004, IAR submitted tabulations of responses to questionnaires distributed to juvenile court judges and commissioners, juvenile officers, attorneys for juvenile officers, court clerks, guardians ad litem, CASA volunteers, child welfare agency staff, attorneys for indigent parents, foster parents, and youth in out-of-home placement. In December 2004 and March 2005, data obtained from case file reviews and court observations in three sites was submitted to the JCIP. The JCIP Steering Committee and JCIP staff are completing their analysis of the data. A report of findings and recommendations for improvement will be submitted to the Family Court Committee, a committee of the state Supreme Court, in the fall of 2005. The Family Court Committee will submit a final report to the Supreme Court with a copy due to the regional Administration for Children and Families Office by September 30, 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Missouri participated in the CFSR in December 2003. The JCIP Coordinator served as a member of the CFSR Statewide Assessment Group, as did a number of judges and attorneys, and participated in the weeklong onsite reviews. Case reviews were part of the onsite reviews.

The JCIP Coordinator was part of the team that developed the draft Program Improvement Plan (PIP). Specific responsibilities are couched in terms of the child welfare agency partnering with the Office of State Courts Administrator, including the JCIP Coordinator, to achieve specific goals. The PIP specifically calls for collaborative efforts to accomplish the following:

  • Provide multidisciplinary training on ASFA and permanency hearings, consistent with state and federal regulations.
  • Provide multidisciplinary training on the roles and responsibilities of the judiciary and the child welfare agency staff for achieving permanency for children.
  • Address permanency and service needs of children in legal status 2 (temporary custody with adoptive parents), legal status 3 (supervision only by the Children's Division), and legal status 4 (care and custody with Juvenile Court/other agency).
  • Increase the timeliness of the 12-month permanency hearing.
  • Expedite guardianship for children placed with relatives.
  • Address procedures for timely filing of TPR petitions.
  • Secure statutory revisions ensuring consistency with ASFA requirements regarding filing of TPR petitions within 60 days of a judicial determination that the child is an abandoned infant or that reasonable efforts at reunification are not required.
  • Ensure that foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, and relative caregivers are given notice and opportunity to be heard in proceedings involving the child.
  • Develop advanced in-service curriculum for Family-Centered Out-of-Home Care Services.
  • Implement training for child welfare agency staff to develop skills in testifying. In developing the PIP, the child welfare agency in Missouri was advised that the plan could not impose requirements on entities not under the agency's control. The JCIP Coordinator, however, helped to draft the plan, and the CIP Steering Committee will incorporate provisions of the PIP in its recommendations for court improvement. The state's PIP was approved in February 2005, and the focus is now on plan implementation.

In July 2005, the Chair of the Family Court Committee distributed a written request to judges, juvenile officers, and Family Court administrators, asking for their support and, as appropriate, participation in improvement efforts undertaken by the Children's Division. The Children's Division is encouraged to advise the Steering Committee if agency representatives involved with the PIP need assistance in making contacts, forming workgroups, or obtaining input from the courts. The Committee stands ready to assist as needed. In addition, agency and court staff participate on a planning committee for multidisciplinary education as several items in the PIP pertain to development and delivery of multidisciplinary educational programs.
Child and Family Services Review

Funding Issues

Missouri continues to struggle with severe budgetary shortfalls. Funding cuts, effective in FY 06 (July 2005 through June 2006), are inevitable. The extent to which specific programs and services will be affected is unknown at this time. However, the state legislature has always been supportive of the Juvenile Court Improvement Project; it is anticipated that general revenue funding will continue to be provided in the coming year.
Funding Issues




Montana


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Family Drug Courts

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Montana Court Assessment Program (CAP) established a Family Treatment Drug Court in Yellowstone County, the state's most populous district, in June 2001. It is now in the third year of its three-year grant. Other Family Treatment Drug Courts have been established in Lewistown, Butte, and Miles City. Court improvement funds supported the start-up costs of these programs, which are now being funded by a federal congressional appropriation. Funding will be expended by 09/30/05. Additional funding is being sought through grants, appropriations, and local entities. Clients are referred to the Drug Courts by the child welfare agency when a child is placed in foster care due to the parents' drug and/or alcohol addictions. The parents are screened for participation and must agree to the requirements of the Drug Court before they are accepted as clients.

Each Drug Court is collecting data through the same computer data system for an overall cost-benefit analysis that is underway and scheduled to be completed by 9/30/05. The Program Evaluator presented preliminary data at the Eastern Meth Summit in April 2005. This PowerPoint presentation [MT-05-01] contains extensive information regarding the operations and outcomes at the Yellowstone County Family Treatment Drug Court (YCFTDC), including the following: adult and child demographics; drugs of choice; living arrangements for children at intake; graduation and termination rates; child permanency; sanctions and incentives; drug testing results; treatment services; preliminary participant outcomes; preliminary child outcomes; adult and child neuropsychiatric findings at intake; and adult and child neuropsychiatric findings at follow-up.

At the YCFTDC between June 2001 and December 2004, there were 38 participants and 68 children. As of December 2004, 11 participants (28.9 percent) were active; 13 (34.2 percent) had been expelled; 11 (28.9 percent) had graduated; 2 (5.4 percent) opted to quit; and 1 (2.1 percent) case was transferred. Sixteen children (23.6 percent) were reunified and dismissed; 15 (22.1 percent) were in out-of-home placements; 11 (16.1 percent) were adopted or in the final stages of adoption; 9 (13.3 percent) were reunified and active; 9 (13.3 percent) were relinquished and in the adoption process; 4 (5.8 percent) had parental rights terminated and were in the adoption process; and 4 (5.8 percent) were placed with the birth father.

Preliminary participant (graduated, terminated, or active) outcomes indicated the following:

  • Employment. At intake, 29 percent were employed. At the six-month follow-up, 70 percent were employed. At the 12-month follow-up, 70 percent were employed.
  • No Substance Use in the Past Month. At intake, only 10 percent had not used substances in the past month. At the six-month follow-up, that number increased to 82 percent, and at the 12-month follow-up, to 83 percent.

Preliminary child outcomes indicated that permanency was established for 77 percent of the children, with 17 percent having the parents relinquish rights and 7.5 percent having parental rights terminated. According to the Program Evaluator, '[d]ata suggests that anything less than 15 months of formalized treatment decreases the success rate by approximately 63%.'

Individual Drug Court evaluations will be completed by July 1, 2005.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

GAL Program Improvements

The GAL Taskforce has developed GAL standards and training requirements for all GALs assigned to represent children in abuse and neglect cases. The standards were distributed to attorney GALs, CASA volunteers, and judges for comment. The GAL Taskforce is currently writing a brief to the Montana Supreme Court requesting that the standards be adopted into the Uniform District Court Rules.

The GAL Taskforce planned several trainings at the annual Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference held in Helena in April 2005. The Conference included presentations on federal and state substantive and procedural law in dependency cases, child brain development, and the conflict between the timeframes of ASFA, parents' addiction treatment, and children's developmental needs.

The GAL Taskforce proposed new legislation in the most recent session. The required CAPTA language regarding training was included, as well as an amendment that would allow Department of Public Health and Human Services employees to act as CASA volunteers absent a conflict of interest. This bill was passed and signed by the Governor.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Training and Education
Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Parents' Counsel

As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2003, the Montana Legislature passed a joint resolution for a study on appointment of counsel for parents. As a result of this study, the Children, Families, Health, and Human Services Interim Committee recommended that the Law and Justice Interim Committee support the appointment of parents' counsel at the beginning of the case. Currently, several counties fund Public Defender Offices if the population/case load merits the cost. Other counties usually contract for services. The Law and Justice Interim Committee drafted a bill to create a new Public Defender system in Montana to ensure qualified counsel for all indigent parties. The Public Defender system bill was passed and signed into law by the Governor. In addition to requiring counsel to be appointed for all indigent parents at the onset of the case, the bill also requires counsel for the child/youth and for the Guardian ad Litem. The bill also specifies that Guardians ad Litem cannot be Public Defenders.
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Case Tracking Systems

Montana has developed a new case tracking system for delinquent juveniles in Youth Court that is nearly complete, with training scheduled for May 2005. This new system, Assessments.com, will make it much easier to generate risk assessments on delinquent youth. In the past, the data has been kept on the Child and Adult Protection System (CAPS), which is managed by Child and Family Services. Since CAPS was designed specifically for dependency cases in 1994, it was necessary to implement a new system to meet safety/risk assessment requirements.

Dependency cases are not managed on a statewide court system. Each judicial district has developed a separate system for managing dependency cases, but many are outdated and unreliable. The Montana Supreme Court received a one-time special appropriation for a case management system for District Courts, installation of which is expected to begin in January 2006 and be completed by July 2007.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Reassessment

The Montana CIP Director is currently conducting its reassessment. A web survey will be sent out in May 2005, and onsite case reviews, court hearing evaluations, and interviews will be conducted in June 2005 and July 2005. Any judicial areas of concern will be identified and targeted in the new Strategic Plan. The final report will be completed by September 30, 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

Montana participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in 2002. A Court Assessment Program staff member was involved in interviewing the judiciary.

Montana's CFSR Program Improvement Plan (PIP) was approved in late 2003. The child welfare agency began its corrective actions even before the submission of the PIP and continues to make progress on its identified problem areas. The following were identified as issues for courts: inadequate permanency plan hearings; lack of communication and coordination between parties and the judiciary; untimely hearings; inadequate documentation in court records; variation of process when indigent parents are not appointed representation at onset of case; insufficient use of qualified expert witnesses in ICWA cases. Problem areas will be identified in the reassessment and corrective actions will be written into the Strategic Plan.

Montana is currently preparing for the second round of reviews. The child welfare agency has been conducting an internal review of cases. This review is helping the child welfare agency determine the effectiveness of the PIP action steps. The agency administrator also contacted the district court judges to offer additional help in meeting ASFA requirements in a timely fashion and addressed the Montana Judges' Association Conference in May 2005.
Child and Family Services Review




Nebraska


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Supreme Court Commission on Children in the Courts

Chief Justice John V. Hendry announced the formation of the Supreme Court Commission on Children in the Courts on January 6, 2005. The Commission, co-chaired by Judge Everett O. Inbody, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and Douglas County Separate Juvenile Court Judge Douglas F. Johnson, consists of judges, lawyers, representatives of the legislative and executive branches, and children's advocates. The Nebraska Court Improvement Project (CIP) is the primary source of logistical support and technical assistance for the Commission and its subcommittees. The Commission's initial goal is to study appropriate steps for the judicial system to insure that the court system is responsive to children who interact with, or are directly affected by, the courts. The first priority is to research the effectiveness of the legal representation of children within the system, including developing standards and training protocols for lawyers who represent children in abuse and neglect cases and in cases involving juvenile delinquency. The Commission is also exploring expediting the appeals process for abuse/neglect cases. Subcommittees have been actively working on the above priorities. The Commission is expected to make proposals regarding the legal representation of children and the appellate process by the end of 2005.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
Timeliness of Decisions
Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals
Community Collaboration

Court-Agency Collaboration Project

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Nebraska Court Improvement Project (CIP) initiated the Court-Agency Collaboration Project, which focuses on the timeliness of decisions and improved hearings. The three counties with Nebraska's highest concentration of juvenile cases - Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy Counties - now hold quarterly meetings that include judges, attorneys, CASA representatives, foster care review board members, and other policy representatives. The group discusses system barriers and strategies for improvement.

In addition, subcommittees have been formed that are working independently on various topics. The subcommittees that are working in Douglas County include 1) Initial Protective Custody Hearing, 2) Visitation/Permanency/Adoption, 3) Sustaining the Change, 4) Education and Older Kids in Care, 5) Family Treatment Drug Court. The subcommittees that are working in Lancaster County include: 1) Initial Protective Custody Hearing, 2) Older Kids in Care/Education, 3) Visitation/Other Services, 4) Family Treatment Drug Court. Sarpy County is focusing on delays in the adoption process.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Community Collaboration

Expanded Preliminary Protective Custody Hearings

The preliminary protective custody hearing is the first hearing in a child abuse/neglect case and in Nebraska typically occurs after a child has been removed from their home in an emergency. This hearing is usually preceded by an ex parte order permitting placement of the child. The Nebraska CIP, through its Court-Agency Collaboration projects in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties and in conjunction with the Omaha Model Court project, has assisted Lancaster and Douglas counties in improving their preliminary protective custody hearings.

The development of these hearings followed the guidance of the Resource Guidelines. Lancaster County piloted these expanded hearings in January of 2003 in one court and by the end of 2003 all three Lancaster County Courts were utilizing them. In July 2004, all five Douglas County Courts instituted these new hearings. One of the key elements of an effective preliminary protective custody hearing is a thorough discussion of all the issues among all the parties (but not the judge) before the hearing. Douglas County is utilizing facilitators to direct these pre-hearing conferences. Lancaster County also has pre-hearing conferences but they are more informal.

Work is continuing on improving these hearings, both substantively and logistically. Evaluations of the effectiveness of these hearings will be conducted as soon as enough time has elapsed to evaluate outcomes. An evaluation of the Lancaster County pilot suggested that since these hearings began parents are more likely to be represented by counsel at the first hearing, children are more likely to be placed with relatives rather than in group homes or with foster parents not known to them, children are being reunified with their families faster, and fathers and tribes are being notified of a child's entry into the system within a few days of removal. Anecdotal reports are extremely positive. For example, brief comments from professionals in Douglas County after the second week of these new hearings included, 'more time to get more done,' 'things are getting accomplished faster,' 'information presented at the hearing has saved about three hearings,' 'parents appear to feel more comfortable with the process and in talking with the judges,' and 'the hearings are helpful in meeting the family's needs up front.'
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
Evaluation
Evaluation: Pilot Projects

Family Group Conferencing

Nebraska is using Family Group Conferencing (FGC) and mediation to improve the treatment of parents and families in the juvenile court process. Family Group Conferencing has been implemented statewide by the Department of Health and Human Services through contracts with mediation centers around the state. Trained mediators serve as facilitators. The CIP continues to provide technical assistance, and completed process and outcome evaluations of FGC that were detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. Data from Nebraska's Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) is being used as one source for assessing outcomes.

Nebraska also initiated Expedited FGC within a few days of removal to solely address the child's placement. The CIP conducted an outcome evaluation of Expedited FGCs [NE-05-01]. Generally, there were no significant differences in the proportion of children who were discharged during the time period assessed. Likewise, of children who had been discharged, there was not a significant group difference for length of time in the system. A review of children's placements, however, suggests that the Expedited FGCs improve the likelihood that children will remain with family. Compared to children in the comparison group, a larger proportion of children who had Expedited FGCs had been reunified with their parents, were doing a trial home visit, or were living in relative foster care.
Alternative Dispute Resolution

Technology Committee

As addressed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Nebraska convened a Technology Committee to address the state's lack of necessary hardware and software to make meaningful technological strides despite expertise in gathering and analyzing data. The Technology Committee hired a consultant to conduct an assessment of what was needed. Based on this assessment, the Nebraska Supreme Court requested money from the state legislature, which denied the request. Therefore, a lack of adequate information technology to assess child abuse and neglect cases continues to be a problem in the state.
Technology
Technology: Data Collection
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

Reassessment

The Court Improvement Project has completed its surveys and analyzed the survey data. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has provided Child and Family Services Review outcome data, organized by judicial districts, to the CIP. Currently, the CIP is finishing focus groups. The reassessment and final report should be finished by the end of August 2005; a draft will be submitted to the federal government at the end of June 2005.
Evaluation
Evaluation: General

Child and Family Services Review

The Court Improvement Project Director was a member of the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) team. Specifically, the CIP assisted with the self-assessment and was a stakeholder in the onsite review. A judge participated as a reviewer. The CIP staff was invited to be interviewed.

The CIP Director was a member of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) Advisory Committee, made specific recommendations pertaining to legal barriers for the PIP, and wrote drafts of relevant court pieces.

Nebraska is preparing for the second round of reviews by conducting a mini-CFSR during the fall of 2005.
Child and Family Services Review




Nevada


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Clark County Juvenile Court/Integration of Functions

As reported extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Clark County has redesigned its Juvenile Court and integrated services previously delivered by the state to county control. With integration complete, the child welfare agency has doubled its full-time staff from 200 to 400 people. The agency completed an individual review of every child in foster care in April 2005. The agency reviewed the cases of 2,071 children. The average age was eight years old, the average number of placements per child is 3.5, and 40 percent of the children had a permanency goal of adoption. Social workers had an average caseload of 35 children.

As the result of the integration, systemic improvements have been made (see Independent Living Committee) and other opportunities for improvement have been identified. Clark County has identified the following areas of concern: 1) mental health placement and service system structure creates negative outcomes for children; 2) increased shelter care population; 3) lack of timeliness of moves; and 4) a legislative requirement to redesign Medicaid-funded mental health services. Strategies employed to address these challenges include the following: 1) increasing the number of licensed family foster homes; 2) adding/requesting positions and resources; 3) developing protocols to expedite permanency; and 4) instituting additional placement supports.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Independent Living Committee

As noted in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, Clark County has made many improvements in the area of independent living. An Independent Living Committee, which includes the Eighth Judicial District Court Family Judge, was established to oversee services to older youth exiting foster care. Over the past year, the Independent Living Committee has accomplished the following: 1) developed an amended plan for state funds to support the transition and independence of youth leaving foster care; 2) provided input for the use of Chafee funds to support independence; 3) developed an appeal process for youth who were denied funds; 4) reviewed expenditures and distribution of funding to support youth; 5) identified key components for independent living services in Clark County; 6) distributed information about available funding/programs to caseworkers and foster parents; and 7) provided oversight to current contracted providers.
Treatment of Parties
Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

Reno Model Court

The Second Judicial District Court, located in Reno, was selected as a National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Model Court site, as reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. The Model Court team continues to meet monthly. The Model Court participated in National Adoption Day, finalizing 35 adoptions in November 2004. The event was so successful that semiannual Adoption Days are being scheduled. In May 2004, the Model Court held the first 'Kids and Judges Day,' in which the Model Court invited foster children into the courtrooms for informal meetings with dependency judicial officers.

The Model Court is also focusing on educational advancements for foster children. The Model Court has started meeting with the local school administration. A subcommittee has been established and is meeting to formulate protocols for school counselors regarding children in foster care. The Model Court is also examining other education-related issues, such as whether children in foster care may be retained in their zoned schools in appropriate cases. To further these goals, the Model Court submitted a proposal to the Robert S. Johnson Foundation for a grant to establish an educational liaison between the Court and the School District.
Hearing Quality and Depth
Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

Representation of Parents

As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Nevada is working to improve representation of parents in dependency cases. As part of the Reno Model Court, all indigent parents receive appointed counsel.

During the past year, Washoe County hired an additional attorney in the Public Defender's Office to represent parents. The Public Defender's Office hired two full-time Family Court Investigative Specialists in March 2005 to investigate all cases set for trial, assist parents in completing their case plans, and act as a liaison to social services to effectuate more successful reunification outcomes for parents. The Investigative Specialist positions were modeled after similar staff positions in Washington, California, and Pennsylvania.

In 2003, Clark County established two full-time positions in the Office of the Special Public Defender solely to represent parents whose children have been removed. No new positions have been added, but Clark County utilizes appointed private attorneys when the caseloads of the two public defenders exceed 80 cases or when there is a conflict. In the past, criteria for appointing counsel for parents included the presence of mental health issues for parents, sex abuse, and non-English speaking parents. Presently, appointments are made for any case where the court is convinced that an appointment may aid the parents or assist in reunification. Appointments are also made routinely in termination of parental rights cases if a parent appears. Clark County is exploring ways to increase the number of special public defenders. Although appointing private attorneys results in increased costs, the County has not committed to hiring permanent employees.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

CASA Initiative

Over the past year, the Nevada Court Improvement Project (CIP) started a statewide Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) initiative. The goals of this initiative are three-fold: 1) develop a state organization; 2) forge a strong network of support for CASA across the state; and 3) create a statewide CASA Advisory Board. The CIP contracted with a consultant who previously chaired the state CASA Program in Georgia. The consultant is assisting the new CASA Board of Directors with developing articles of incorporation and bylaws, creating a multi-year Strategic Plan, and recruiting and training a full Board and a statewide CASA Director.

To date, Nevada has achieved the following: 1) identified target agencies and organizations to support Nevada CASA; 2) organized a statewide meeting of local program directors to build support for the state organization; 3) held a Nevada CASA Summit to gather support for CASA statewide; and 4) formed a Steering Committee and initial Board of Directors for Nevada CASA. The Board of Directors met in February and May 2005.

Current CASA programs in Nevada are located in Carson City, Washoe County, Douglas County, and Clark County. Carson City has 25 volunteers and served 50 children in 21 cases during 2004. Between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005, there were 143 volunteers who served 386 children in Washoe County. In 2004, Douglas County had 40 volunteers who served 29 children. Clark County had 226 volunteers who served 638 children. These programs serve four of the nine judicial districts in Nevada and are located in the most populated areas of the state. To identify the needs of existing local programs during the grant period, Nevada CASA will survey programs in each judicial district inquiring about funding/sustainability, volunteer training, networking, community support/public awareness, staff and board training, judicial support, quality assurance practices, and other relevant issues. In addition, beginning in the second quarter of the grant period, the new Executive Director and various Nevada CASA Board members will conduct site visits to existing programs to meet with staff, volunteers, and judges to discuss local needs.

There are five judicial districts in Nevada that do not have CASA programs affiliated with National CASA. These districts are in rural, sparsely populated areas of the state where funding and volunteer recruitment are major concerns. The judges in these districts are interested in having the benefits of a CASA program to serve the abused and neglected children in their courts. To support new CASA program development, the Executive Director and Board will provide opportunities for judges and local community leaders to learn about the need for CASA in each unserved judicial district. There will be a session at the state CASA conference devoted to educating judges and local leaders about CASA and discussing strategies for bringing new programs to rural districts. The new Executive Director will visit each judicial district and meet with judges and community leaders to discuss and plan how new programs will be started and sustained. The Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts is the Chair of the Nevada CASA Board of Directors and is already in the process of making visits to all of the judicial districts in the state. The Board proposes to seek support (possibly from Court Improvement Project funding) for a pilot program in a rural district. This pilot program would be the first step towards bringing CASA to rural districts not currently served by CASA. The Nevada CASA Board of Directors will spend much of the grant period gathering information and holding meetings with legislators, agency representatives, state business and philanthropic leaders, and others to discuss the subject of funding for programs statewide. The Board will explore the possibility of seeking legislative support for program funding statewide in preparation for the 2007 legislative session.
Legal Representation of Parties
Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

Case Management and Information Systems

Nevada has no statewide juvenile IT system and continues to conduct data collection on a county-by-county basis. For example, in Washoe County, data collection is limited to ensuring compliance with the deadlines of the Nevada Revised Statutes and ASFA, and that required legal findings were appropriately made. Although other data elements have been identified, personnel resource limitations do not allow for collection of all of them. Washoe County is currently identifying the most desirable data elements to assess case outcomes.

Although performance measures have not been developed statewide, the CIP met with the Technology Project Support Manager of the Administrative Office of the Courts to address this issue with regard to the rural case management system (NRCS) that is being implemented in multiple jurisdictions across the state. The juvenile module of the NRCS has not yet been implemented in any jurisdiction.
Technology
Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
Technology: Data Collection

Legislation

In the most recent session, the Nevada Legislature passed several provisions affecting dependency cases, which have been signed by the Governor. These provisions include the following:

  • AB 42. If a governmental agency has a legally enforceable obligation to provide care or treatment for a child who is in need of protection and the agency fails to provide the care or treatment, upon notice and opportunity to be heard, the court may issue an order to join the agency as a party in any proceeding involving the child to enforce that obligation. In addition, this bill provides that it is presumed to be in a child's best interest to be placed with his siblings. Before a hearing for review of a placement, the agency must submit a report detailing whether a child was placed with siblings, the actions taken by the agency to place the siblings together, the reasons a child was not placed with siblings, and a visitation plan if they are not placed together.
  • AB 369. Authorizes a child welfare agency to file a petition for the court-ordered admission to certain facilities of a child who is alleged to be emotionally disturbed and in the agency's custody. Also sets forth requirements regarding placement of the child in less restrictive environments, the maximum number of days for which a child may be ordered into such a facility, and the rights of children admitted.
  • SB 296. Revises the provisions governing the Statewide Central Registry for the Collection of Information Concerning the Abuse or Neglect of a Child by authorizing an employer to obtain certain information concerning whether a person has been found to have abused or neglected a child. Requires certain persons to notify an agency which provides child welfare services of newborn infants who are identified as being affected by illegal substance abuse or as having withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure and to refer persons responsible for the welfare of such infants to such agencies for counseling, training, and other services. Revises the provisions governing when a child is in need of protection because he is affected by alcohol use, illegal substance abuse, or has withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure.

Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

Truancy Court Diversion Project

The Truancy Court Diversion Project continues in nine Clark County public schools. Described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the intent over the next year is to strengthen existing programs as opposed to expanding into more schools. Over the past year, the Project hired a CASA manager to oversee it, and the manager is assisted by three parent advocates. On an anecdotal basis, the Project has been successful and there continues to be much support for it. The Chief Juvenile Judge recently visited each school in the program and despite some territorial issues, all the principals and school personnel recognized the value of the program. The ongoing goal is to improve the program so that future expansion can be made without impairing its quality. This goal is being achieved by developing a common philosophy and practices, e.g., tutoring is now required for every child, special trips are being coordinated between schools, and experienced judges are teaming with less experienced judges.
New/Innovative Projects

Judicial Tribal Consortium

The Administrative Office of the Courts facilitates a Judicial Tribal Consortium. The Judicial Tribal Consortium is an informal group of local, state, and tribal officials meeting quarterly to discuss court-related matters. Invitations and notices are sent routinely to all Nevada state and Tribal judges, Tribal Chairmen, state and Tribal law enforcement, state and Tribal prosecutors, state and Tribal domestic violence advocates, state and Tribal health services directors, and others who have expressed an interest in the Consortium. Topics are varied, and most recently the Indian Child Welfare Act was discussed. Guest speakers answered questions and provided handouts. Training and Education
Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
Community Collaboration

Reassessment

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) conducted Nevada's Reassessment. The Reassessment was conducted in three phases. Phase I was the assessment of conformity with state statutory requirements and standards with federal mandates and nationally recognized best practices. As part of this phase, Nevada's Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan and CIP Strategic Plan were reviewed. Conference calls were held with Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Region 9 representatives, the Nevada Administrative Office of Courts (AOC), and the state Division of Child and Family Services.

Phase II consisted of assessing court performance in practice. The evaluators conducted stakeholder interviews, case file reviews, court observations, and an online survey. The online survey can be accessed at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=65644629217 and was intended to elicit responses from a broad range of system stakeholders from around the state. The survey was designed to draw out opinions about general court performance, best practices, permanency outcomes, barriers to compliance with timelines, effectiveness of CIP initiatives, and local innovations. The online survey took approximately one hour to complete. Researchers realized this time commitment was cumbersome, but the survey was designed so that respondents could complete sections at a time and reenter the system at multiple points in time.

Phase III was the data analysis. Databases were developed for this purpose and data entry was completed as each site visit was conducted. The final report was submitted on June 30, 2005. A sampling of the recommendations includes the following:

  • Provide collaborative training and information-sharing opportunities to ensure that judges, masters, legal representatives, CASA, service providers, and other system professionals are informed of Program Improvement Plan (PIP) strategies designed to improve the case planning and case review process, increase parental involvement in case planning, and improve visitation practice.
  • Develop a multidisciplinary training program that strengthens judicial and nonjudicial understanding of the purpose, scope, and expectations for each hearing type, based on the Resource Guidelines, Adoption and Permanency Guidelines, and ASFA.
  • Develop strategies to increase parental appearances with more attention to parental engagement in early and subsequent hearings in rural districts, e.g., early identification and involvement of fathers, early ICWA inquiries.
  • Encourage expansion of case conferencing, family group decision making, and use of mediation at early stages in a case in order to more fully 'front-load' the case process.
  • Encourage and support the development of a case monitoring system so the court can control its calendar.

    The CIP is currently developing a revised Strategic Plan based on the various Reassessment recommendations and will submit it to the Administration for Children and Families at the end of July.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Nevada participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in February 2004. Prior to the review, the CIP Committee invited the state CFSR Coordinator from the Division of Child and Family Services to present about the upcoming review and subsequent development of a Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The CFSR Coordinator outlined the review process phases, stakeholder identification, time frames, systemic factors, and importance of court and legal involvement with the review. CIP members assisted in all aspects of the site review and judges were interviewed by federal reviewers.

    Nevada received the results of the federal review in June of 2004. The child welfare agency has included the CIP in all phases of the CFSR. The CIP participated in the development of the PIP, with ACF conducting conference calls to negotiate collaborative items on the PIP. The PIP was approved in March 2005. The child welfare agency invited the CIP to the implementation kick-off planning meeting and collaboration continues.

    In May 2005, the CIP sponsored its first collaborative training conference, 'Help Us Make a Difference ' Why the Courts Must Be Involved to Improve the Safety and Permanency for Children in Nevada.' This partnership conference was held to strategize, prioritize, and identify immediate action steps, which the courts can implement to support the statewide effort of improving outcomes. Examples of identified action steps include the following:

    • Define clear expectations for when a diligent search should begin, who is being sought, who is searching, and how the search is proceeding.
    • Train foster parents on their role and responsibilities to the court throughout the life of the case.
    • Create and agree on a definition of concurrent planning and when to use it.
    • Encourage judicial leadership in setting timelines for events.
    • Put more resources into family preservation and adoption recruitment.
    • Work on developing strategies to fund attorneys to represent parties, e.g., exploring other funding streams (including CIP money) and develop legal strategies or theories to provide leverage for obtaining public funding for attorneys.
    • Standardize elements of a court report.
    • Provide training to judges on safety and risk assessment tools.
    • Document face-to-face visits. Include content of visits and specify issues. List frequency of duration. Address mental health and education in case plan.

    Over 70 people attended, including judges and juvenile masters, state and county child welfare agency staff and administration, CASA directors, attorneys, NCJFCJ representatives, law professors, AOC administration and staff, and federal partners from the ACF Region 9.

    In addition, various stakeholders signed up to participate in three separate workgroups targeting three specific topics and issues concerning them: Permanency Planning, TPRs and Legal Representation, and Court Oversight. Numerous issues were identified and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will facilitate more formalized meetings of the workgroups. The meetings will begin in the fall of 2005. The workgroups will continue collaborative problem solving around identified issues and produce concrete steps and practice and policy recommendations to address barriers to best practices and achievement of national standards. Their findings will be reported to an Advisory Group.
    Child and Family Services Review




  • New Hampshire


    To Table of Contents

    Protocols Relative to Abuse and Neglect Cases and Permanency Planning

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2003, the New Hampshire Court Improvement Project (CIP), in cooperation with the Family Division and Probate Court, finalized the Protocols Relative to Abuse and Neglect Cases and Permanency Planning [NH-03-01]. The Protocols are based on the Resource Guidelines and incorporate ASFA requirements. The Protocols can be found at www.courts.state.nh.us/district/protocols/abuseneglect/index.htm.

    Training of system participants on the Protocols remains a primary CIP activity. With the ongoing statewide expansion of the Family Division, the Administrative Judge of the District Court and Family Division requested that the CIP Coordinator and Domestic Violence Specialist plan a training on the Protocols and domestic violence for incoming judges. Similar trainings may be offered in the future as additional judges join the District Court and Family Division.

    In addition, the CIP Coordinator and the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Administrator continue to conduct regional Protocol trainings with agency staff. These trainings highlight areas specific to caseworkers and attorneys, and include a review of the court order forms that track Protocol requirements for all abuse and neglect hearings and court orders. Additionally, at this year's Annual DCYF Conference, a workshop will be offered on the Protocols. The workshop will be mandatory for all child welfare agency staff unable to attend one of the earlier regional trainings.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Judicial Education

    Green Book Demonstration Project

    The CIP Coordinator continues to be an active member of the Green Book Demonstration Project. The Green Book Demonstration Project is a three-to-five year study on the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect. Most recently, a multidisciplinary committee was established to develop guidelines for judges handling co-occurrence cases. The committee's work includes a careful review of the Protocols Relative to Abuse and Neglect Cases and Permanency Planning, with a new emphasis on domestic violence in open abuse and neglect cases. The committee anticipates the guidelines will be available during the fall of 2005, with training provided at a two-day judges' conference later in 2005.
    Community Collaboration

    Reassessment

    The CIP contracted with the American Bar Association's (ABA) Center on Children and the Law to conduct the reassessment and to determine the impact of the Protocols Relative to Abuse and Neglect Cases and Permanency Planning. A statewide survey was distributed to all District Court and Family Division judges, child welfare agency attorneys, social workers, and CASA volunteers. The ABA provided a preliminary report to the CIP, including results and recommendations for improvement, in August 2003. Seventy-five percent of agency attorneys responded to the survey, 86 percent of agency caseworkers and supervisors, 100 percent of judges, and 34 percent of CASAs. The survey asked the respondents to consider 50 questions on the following topics: Notice to Parties, Scheduling and Continuances, Court Reports, Court Hearings, Presence of and Participation by Foster Parents at Court Hearings, Reasonable Efforts, Court Orders, and Training on the Protocols Relative to Abuse and Neglect and Permanency Planning. In addition to these questions, judges were also asked about their handling of cases involving delinquency and Children in Need of Supervision, specifically regarding permanency hearings for youth in out-of-home placements.

    In May 2004, two ABA representatives, accompanied by the CIP Coordinator, conducted a comprehensive case file review of abuse and neglect cases from the largest district court in the state. The reviewers considered all cases in which a petition was filed in calendar year 2002. The ABA provided a summary of the case file review to the CIP in March 2005.

    Following the case file review, the Manchester District Court emerged as a "model" court and, as a result, the reassessment was expanded to build upon the data collected there. This additional phase greatly enhanced the quantitative data collected from the statewide survey and case file reviews. The CIP Coordinator worked with ABA representatives to determine the issues to be reexamined. The ABA representatives conducted interviews with judges and court staff to obtain information about the following: 1) the effect of particular mandates, practices, or procedures on compliance and on the safety and well being of children; 2) the effect of caseload size and resource limitations on judicial performance; 3) the extent to which parties present witnesses, evidence, and legal arguments; 4) the quality and adequacy of information available to courts in child welfare cases; 5) the extent to which mandates impose administrative burdens on the courts; and 6) the quality of the treatment of participants in the system. In addition, the ABA representatives held individual focus groups with agency attorneys, parents' attorneys, caseworkers, CASAs, and foster parents. The focus groups considered processing of cases and ASFA mandates, what was working well and what still needed improvement, the quality of treatment for participants, and the impact of CIP activities. The representatives also conducted court observations, which focused on the content and quality of court hearings, the participation of various parties, the atmosphere of the courtroom and proceedings, and the extent to which proceedings are explained to parents and foster parents.

    The ABA completed a draft final report in February 2005. The report includes an analysis of the case file review, as well as findings and recommendations from the interviews, focus groups, court observations, and statewide surveys.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    New Hampshire participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in June 2003. The CIP Coordinator arranged for the participation of three judges from the District Court, Family Division, and Probate Court in the statewide component of the CFSR and in three statewide stakeholder interviews. Neither the CIP Coordinator nor the judges participated in the case review process.

    Although the CIP Coordinator did not directly participate in the development of the CFSR statewide assessment and was not interviewed, child welfare agency administrators provided appropriate information regarding the court system and CIP efforts.

    The CIP Coordinator participated in a planning meeting with child welfare agency staff to discuss the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) and New Hampshire's response to feedback it received following the CFSR. Specifically, the CIP Coordinator participated in Case Review Systemic Factor PIP teams to address two items concerning permanency hearings and termination of parental rights proceedings in accordance with ASFA. The teams participated in training conducted by the Administration for Children and Families and met a number of times thereafter. The teams were charged with developing the initial plans to address the two items listed above.

    The CIP has specific responsibilities in the PIP concerning legal and judicial issues, which were given priority when the CIP revised its Strategic Plan. The CIP Coordinator, with the assistance of the Child Protective Services Administrator, agreed to train all agency workers and their supervisors. In addition, the CIP Coordinator and select child welfare agency staff will meet once the CIP receives the final reassessment report from the ABA. At that time, consideration will be given to the PIP and the CIP's Strategic Plan in light of the report and its recommendations.
    Child and Family Services Review




    New Jersey


    To Table of Contents

    Mediation Projects

    As addressed in prior Court Improvement Projects Reports, Children in Court (CIC) Mediation Pilot Projects continue to exist in Essex and Morris Counties. In 2003, the New Jersey CIC Improvement Committee appointed a subcommittee to consider the development of mediation standards and best practices for CIC mediation.

    At the present time, the New Jersey CIC Improvement Committee is developing two mediation projects in Hudson and Monmouth Counties. CIP funds are supporting the training and evaluation functions in these projects. Once the projects are evaluated, the CIC Improvement Committee will develop standards and best practices to guide further expansion.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    CASA Expansion

    The CIC Improvement Committee continues its commitment to CASA expansion in New Jersey. CASA programs are now operating in 12 counties. Eleven of these programs receive CIP funding; one is court operated. Funds in the current grant are supporting developing programs in Somerset and Union Counties. About one-third of the CIP grant, approximately $80,000, is used to support CASA programs.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

    Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks

    The Education and Training Subcommittee of the Family Practice Division is developing a benchbook for Family Division judges. This benchbook will be completed in September 2005.

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIC Improvement Committee provided funds to Legal Services of New Jersey to develop a handbook for parents involved in child abuse and neglect cases. The handbook, Child Abuse and Neglect: A Guide for Parents Involved in DYFS Child Abuse or Neglect Cases, has been completed and is available at http://www.lsnj.org/selfhelp.htm. The handbook is available in both English and Spanish. The handbook provides basic information for parents about abuse and neglect cases; working with the child welfare agency to reunify with their child; the court process; and related legal matters. In addition, the handbook contains worksheets to use for services, appointments, visitation, and court hearings.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

    Internet-Based Information Access System

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, New Jersey developed an Internet-based information access system, Data on Demand FACTS. This system allows any court staff person to configure data for informational or monitoring reports, and utilizes both local performance measures and some Packard performance measures. The CIC Improvement Committee provided a total of $40,000 for the data hard drive, $200,000 for the database operations, and $100,000 for the software. Court improvement funds have been used to pay a portion of the salary for an information technology staff person to make adjustments as individuals are trained and feedback is obtained.

    Presently, the system is operational for AOC staff only. Additional databases need to be uploaded before full reports can be run. However, the reports that can be run at this time have been successfully integrated with the Lotus-Notes email system and can run during the nighttime hours without difficulty. The parties that have access are pleased with the technology and look forward to the completion of the project so full reports can be obtained.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Internet Development

    Mercer County Family Mentor Project

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIC Improvement Committee is providing funds for the creation of a Family Mentor Project in Mercer County. The Office of the Public Defender, Parental Representation Unit, is sponsoring a program to provide mentors to parents involved in child maltreatment cases. These mentors will be parents previously involved in the child welfare system who have successfully reunited with their children. The mentors will be asked to commit approximately three hours each week for up to six months to support their assigned parent. As an incentive, mentors will be paid for their participation and reimbursed for expenses.

    The Family Mentor Project will operate through August 31, 2005 (the end of the grant period). There is a program evaluation and a budgetary evaluation in place. The CIC Improvement Committee will review the progress of the program prior to the end of the grant period and determine whether to continue funding it.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Union County Supervised Visitation Program

    The CIC Improvement Committee provided funds to Union County for a supervised visitation program. Specifically, Union County expanded an existing subcontracted supervised visitation program for parents and children involved in child abuse and/or neglect, family reunification, and guardianship cases in the Union County Family Division.

    The program included transportation, a therapist to conduct visits, supervisory staff, visitation space at the agency, staff time to arrange visits, and administrative costs. This program supplemented biweekly visitation provided by the child welfare agency so that children could have weekly visits.

    During the program period, seven biweekly visitation slots were utilized. Eleven families used the slots and three families were reunified. One family was terminated from the program. The CIC Improvement Committee did not fund the program again due to competing priorities.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Special Waiting Areas and Improved Space

    Morris County Transportation Program

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIC Improvement Committee provided funds to Morris County to offer free, round-trip taxi rides for parents to court, appointments, or visits with their children on an 'as needed' basis. Judges determined on a case-by-case basis who was eligible for the program, depending on the circumstances of the case and the financial needs of the parents. About 40 round trip rides were provided and riders gave positive feedback regarding the program. Morris County requested more funding.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Reassessment Plans

    The National Center for State Courts conducted the New Jersey reassessment. The Center used site visits, case file reviews, court observations, interviews, and focus groups in the reassessment.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    New Jersey participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in March 2004. The CIC Improvement Committee and AOC representatives were active on the Steering Committee, Case Review Workgroup, and Information Systems Workgroup.

    The CIC Improvement Committee will participate in implementation of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) when assistance is requested by the child welfare agency. The CIC Improvement Committee is collaborating more extensively with the child welfare agency on the Child Welfare Reform Plan, developed as required by the settlement of a federal lawsuit, see http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/cwrp/index.htm. While aspects of the Child Welfare Reform Plan and the PIP overlap, the Child Welfare Reform Plan contains more court initiatives.
    Child and Family Services Review




    New Mexico


    To Table of Contents

    Family Drug Courts

    As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the New Mexico Court Improvement Project (CIP) Task Force studied model Family/Dependency Drug Courts around the country to consider creation of a court-based substance abuse program. In 2002 and 2003, a multidisciplinary statewide planning team developed a mission statement, goals, objectives, and a manual on the implementation of Family Drug Courts in local districts. With a combination of state and federal funds, New Mexico has established Family Drug Courts in three judicial districts: the Fifth Judicial District, located in the southeastern part of the state (Hobbs); the Second Judicial District, located in the central part of the state (Albuquerque); and the Third Judicial District, located in the southern region of the state (Las Cruces).

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Family Drug Court identified critical data elements and developed an Access® database. Data elements [NM-04-01] identified include personal/demographic characteristics, pre-program history, health information, treatment history, financial information, education and housing information, and Drug Court progress and follow-up. The database is currently being tested in Lea County and will be introduced in the other counties when testing is complete. There are no statistics available to report at this time. The CIP developed Family Drug Court Standards [NM-04-02] consistent with standards created for Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts by the Supreme Court's Statewide Drug Court Advisory Committee. At the CIP Task Force's November 2004 meeting, the Family Drug Court Committee reported that its work was essentially complete and recommended turning the Family Drug Court Initiative over to the Administrative Office of the Court's Drug Court Advisory Committee. The Task Force adopted this recommendation and the CIP Task Force no longer oversees the initiative.

    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Children's/Family Court Initiative

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the New Mexico Supreme Court is considering the development of a Children's or Family Court in each judicial district to improve timeliness and earlier permanency for children. Children's Courts handle only delinquency and dependency (abuse and neglect) cases; Family Courts include domestic relations, domestic violence, child support, and custody. At the present time, there is a dedicated Children's or Family Court Judge in the First (Santa Fe), Second (Albuquerque), Third (Las Cruces), and Thirteenth (Los Lunas) Judicial Districts.

    The judiciary requested three additional dedicated judgeships from the New Mexico State Legislature during the 2004 session, but the positions were not approved. Therefore, during 2004, a small work group of the Task Force Timeliness Committee began to explore other options, including the following:

    • Encouraging Judicial Districts to create a new Division for Children's Court or Family Court whenever there is a new judgeship or vacancy to be filled.
    • Working with the Children's Court Rules Committee to promulgate a new rule requiring that each District with three or more Divisions designate one as a Children's or Family Court Division and develop local rules or administrative orders.
    • Explore the use of special masters, special commissioners, and hearing officers dedicated to children's cases. A workgroup is currently completing an informal study of the current use of special masters, special commissioners, and hearing officers in children and family cases throughout the state. The group is also looking at the use of such quasi-judicial officers in other jurisdictions around the country.

    In the coming year, the Task Force Timeliness Committee will do the following:

    • Reassess the status of Children's or Family Court Divisions in judicial districts statewide and consider the feasibility of requesting additional judgeships during the 2005 or 2006 legislative session.
    • Study the potential resource demands of implementing Children's or Family Court Divisions, especially in terms of judicial time, and explore options, including the use of special masters and/or hearing officers.
    • Draft a new rule requiring that each District with three or more Divisions designate one as a Children's or Family Court Division and/or work with the Districts to develop local rules or administrative orders.
    • Monitor the establishment of Children's or Family Court Divisions and draft a plan to evaluate outcomes in terms of children and families.

    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    Quality of Advocacy/Compensation

    The New Mexico Supreme Court approved performance standards for court-appointed attorneys in 2003. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) requested that these standards be incorporated into attorney contracts for 2004 - 2005. The Quality of Advocacy Committee is currently working on a process for monitoring the standards, including developing a draft checklist for judges. The projected date for the completion of a monitoring plan is October 2005.

    The Quality of Advocacy Committee published its Court-Appointed Attorney Fee Fund Report (NM-05-01) in June 2005. The Committee reviewed data regarding compensation of court-appointed attorneys and recommended a two-stage increase to the Court-Appointed Attorney Fee Fund for FY06 and FY07. The Committee made the recommendation 'based on the conviction that inadequate compensation is a key barrier to the provision of quality representation.' The Committee also noted larger caseloads, requirements regarding appointment of a Youth Attorney (see Legislation), increased expectations for performance, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining attorneys as challenges to improving legal representation.

    During 2005, the Quality of Advocacy Committee will address opportunities for improved coordination and efficiency of GALs, CASAs, and CRBs. The Committee will explore several approaches to improved coordination and efficiency, including 1) combining or teaming CASAs and GALs and 2) creating an intermediary agency to coordinate GALs, CASAs, and mediators.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

    Expediting Appeals

    In 2004, the Court Improvement Project Task Force received data from the Children's Court Appellate Attorney indicating a shift away from using the 'expedited bench' and an overall increase in length of time to mandate. The Task Force met on several occasions to discuss this concern and took the following steps:

    • Contracted with an additional court-appointed respondent appellate attorney, since the workload was becoming too large for the current attorneys to handle.
    • Proposed changes to court rules to allow for digital recordings of transcripts.
    • Continued to track the use of expedited bench and other approaches adopted by the Court of Appeals to expedite appeals in children's cases.
    • Provided training for respondent attorneys, on topics such as preparing docketing statements, preserving evidence, etc.

    Timeliness of Decisions
    Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals

    Children's Law Center

    As noted in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center (CLC) was created as a collaborative effort by the New Mexico Supreme Court, the AOC, the Institute for Public Law, and the University of New Mexico School of Law. Initially funded by the Court Improvement Project and the Children's Justice Advisory Group, the CLC provides training for attorneys, advocates, and others involved in abuse and neglect proceedings. In addition, the CLC also develops and distributes various resource materials, including a court handbook, newsletter, and a website.

    The New Mexico Court Improvement Project continues its involvement with the CLC. A few CIP Task Force members and CIP staff are members of the CLC Advisory Board and assist with identifying work products, attending and providing testimony at legislative committees, and developing training content and programs. For example, in the fall of 2004, the Task Force members participated in the development and delivery of a course for respondent attorneys statewide.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Legal Programs and Clinics

    Tribal-State Judicial Consortium

    As addressed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, New Mexico has established a Tribal-State Judicial Consortium to address cross-cultural needs, including full faith and credit and comity, improved state-tribal relationships, training and technical assistance, resource sharing, improved communication, and information dissemination. The Court Improvement Project Task Force supports the efforts of the Consortium by providing staffing, facilitating meetings, and conducting background research as requested by the group. This staff support continues, as the Consortium has only been successful in acquiring episodic nonrecurring funding from the New Mexico State Legislature.

    As discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Consortium produced a Four Corners Tribal, State, and Federal Judicial and Law Enforcement Exchange conference in Albuquerque in 2003. The Exchange was sponsored by the Supreme Courts and Court Improvement Projects of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah; the Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation; the International Association of Chiefs of Police; and other organizations.

    At the 2004 Cross Court Exchange, co-hosted by the Mescalero Apache Tribal Court and the 12th Judicial District Court, a state Supreme Court justice asked the Consortium to cosponsor the April 2006 annual meeting of the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The Consortium agreed to be the cosponsors of the event in lieu of a fall 2005 Cross Court Exchange.

    Another Consortium goal is the promotion of a new Rule of Civil Procedure addressing the recognition and enforcement of tribal court orders. Progress toward this goal has been sporadic. During its first meeting of 2005, the Consortium made this a primary goal for the year and planned a day-long statewide summit to promote the proposed rule. The Summit was held on May 6, 2005 and the theme was 'Removing Barriers: State Court Recognition of Tribal Court Orders.'

    The Tribal-State Judicial Consortium also collaborated with the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Southwest Regional Branch of Human Resources and the State of New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department to sponsor a week long Native American Child Protection/Child Welfare Training from May 9 - 13, 2005 in Albuquerque.
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Other Training
    Community Collaboration

    Court Improvement Publications

    The Court Improvement Project continued to produce publications for various groups involved in the child welfare process. During the past year, the Guardianship Committee has developed the following publications:

    • Stepping Up To Care For A Child [NM-04-03]. This booklet focuses on providing information about resources for grandparents and other caregivers who are serving as guardians for a child.
    • Planning for Your Children: A Resource to Help You Plan For Your Children While You Are In Jail Or Prison [NM-04-04].
    • Away from Home: Children & Youth Living Apart From Their Parents [NM-04-05]. This booklet is a second edition of the original issued by the Guardianship Committee.
    • Preserving Native American Families in New Mexico: The Indian Child Welfare Act & The Adoption and Safe Families Act [NM-04-06]. This booklet focuses on the relationship between the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Adoption and Safe Families Act.

    The Court Improvement Project is considering two new publications for 2005 one on concurrent planning and another for attorneys addressing performance standards, new youth attorney model if approved by the state legislature, see Legislation, preparing for and handling appeals, identifying the best interest of the child, and representing incompetent or minor respondents.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

    Legislation

    In 2004, the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families established a Task Force to develop amendments to the Children's Code for submission in the 2005 legislative session. Several members of the CIP Task Force served on this Task Force. With the assistance of the Quality of Advocacy Committee, one of the primary amendments put forth by the Task Force is the creation of a Youth Attorney. The proposal, which passed in 2005, calls for an attorney to be appointed for any child age 14 and older in an abuse and neglect case. Unlike the attorney guardian ad litem, who is appointed to represent the child's best interest in every case, the Youth Attorney would represent the wishes of the child.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Kinship Guardianship Pro Se Forms

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Kinship Guardianship Pro Se forms were provisionally approved by the New Mexico Supreme Court for use by people who are seeking legal Kinship Guardianship of a child under New Mexico's Kinship Guardianship Act (NMSA 40-10B-1) who are not represented by an attorney. These forms may only be used when the child's legal parent does not contest the guardianship. Kinship Guardianship gives the caregiver (the guardian) legal parental rights. It suspends the parent's rights, but does not terminate them. There are a total of 10 Pro Se forms for Kinship Guardianship ' five are required in all cases and five are required depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

    In 2004, the provisional approval of the pro se forms became permanent. During 2005, the Guardianship Committee will do the following:

    • Seek approval by the Children's Court Rules Committee for the revised instructions for the pro se packet. Once the instructions are approved, the Guardianship Committee will work with the AOC Judicial Information Division to have the instructions added to the state Supreme Court's website.
    • Disseminate the instructions statewide, including to pro se clinics, grandparent resource centers and support groups, legal aid clinics, etc. The Guardianship Committee will compile packets and disseminate them statewide as necessary and appropriate.
    • Follow-up with court staff and judges about the pro se forms (e.g., usefulness and legal sufficiency), and modify the forms or instruction book as needed.

    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders

    Child and Family Services Review

    New Mexico participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in August 2001. The CIP assisted in the development of the state self-assessment in preparation for the onsite review. CIP Task Force members were interviewed as part of the onsite review.

    The CIP participated in the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP), which was approved in April 2003. The child welfare agency has worked with the CIP to implement many of the PIP benchmarks. For example, the agency collaborated with the CIP Planning Committee to present information to judges and attorneys on concurrent planning at the annual Children's Law Institute. Child welfare agency staff members have always been included as members of the CIP Task Force and information exchange occurs regularly as a result. In addition, the CIP Director serves as a member of the Community Partnership for the Protection of Children, which meets monthly to address PIP issues.

    New Mexico is still working under the PIP and has not formally begun preparing for the second round of reviews, although the state continues to track all of the CFSR measures and develop strategies to improve performance. Once New Mexico receives any modifications to the CFSR process from the Children's Bureau, the child welfare agency and the CIP will meet to review the requirements and plan for the next round of interviews.
    Child and Family Services Review

    Funding Issues

    In cooperation with the AOC, the Judiciary, and the Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, the CIP Task Force's Quality of Advocacy Committee developed "1% for Children", a creative effort to earmark a portion of the court budget for programs serving children and families. This proposal would generate just over $1 million to be used for expanded mediation, CASA, access and visitation services, and the Youth Attorney initiative. The New Mexico Legislature is currently considering this proposal.
    Funding Issues




    New York


    To Table of Contents

    Erie County Model Court

    As described extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, all permanency cases are heard by two specialized Family Court Judges using best practice strategies, i.e., Family Court Permanency Parts, in the Erie County Family Court (ECFC). The efforts of the Erie County Family Court have continued over the past year despite the County's severe budget and fiscal problems, uncertainty over the Department of Social Services future direction, and changes in the leadership of the Department. Progress continues to be made through the active subcommittee structure and goal setting by the entire stakeholder group. The 2005 projects include the following:

    • Leadership Retreat. In December 2004, the Erie County Permanency for Children Collaborative, in conjunction with the Permanency Planning for Children Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, held a multidisciplinary retreat - "Assessing Our Progress and Transitioning Forward." The retreat provided an opportunity to assess the Collaborative's accomplishments thus far and to strengthen Erie County's commitment to improving outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system. Attendees also selected and participated in roundtable discussions, which included an overview of seven different projects that are currently underway in Erie County. Many of the recent initiatives have brought new members to the table, including former foster children, foster parents, the Buffalo Public School System, the Center for Development of Human Services (CDHS), private heath care providers, and early childhood educators.
    • Benchmark Hearings. The Erie County Benchmark Permanency Hearings were developed through a collaboration of representatives from Erie County Family Court, the Erie County Departments of Social Services and Probation, Buffalo Public Schools, and various private and residential children's services agencies and legal representatives. The purpose of Benchmark Permanency Hearings is to empower youth in the child welfare system to plan for their own permanent living arrangements. One judge conducts up to three Benchmark Hearings per week, each lasting up to 30 minutes. The model is a hybrid based partially on similar hearings held in the Cook County (Illinois) Juvenile Court and the District of Columbia.
    • Title IV-E Court Order Reviews. Beginning in June 2004, 'team' reviews were conducted in each county of the Eighth Judicial District to review random court orders. Co-led by the Court Improvement Project (CIP) Director for the Eighth Judicial District and the Title IV-E liaisons from the Office of Children and Family Services Regional Office, the team of reviewers included judges, law clerks, court clerks, county attorneys, DSS directors, caseworkers, and other staff members who are involved in court order preparation. The team reviewed each order as a group, taking special note of the processes that resulted in sufficient orders and those that did not. Quality control procedures were developed or formalized in each county to have multiple Title IV-E compliance reviewers in the agency and at the courthouse prior to signature of all new court orders. This review structure has now been adopted across New York State. In Erie County, the initial review of approximately 12 cases resulted in further informal reviews and collaborating with DSS on 'missing' freeing orders. Court files were reviewed to make sure that all orders were current and that DSS had the corresponding order in their case record. The Court and ECDSS are further collaborating in a review of all current files of children who were placed in care between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2001. This timeframe was selected based upon prior findings that initial placement orders for children during this timeframe were at highest risk for failure to include the essential 'contrary to the interest' and 'reasonable efforts' language.

    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Implementation and Review Teams
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties
    Community Collaboration

    Replication Efforts in the Eighth Judicial District

    As noted in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, with the support of the Court Improvement Project, the Erie County Family Court is providing technical assistance to the other seven counties of the Eighth Judicial District (Allegheny, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties) to replicate best practices piloted in the Model Court. Many of these courts continue to sponsor monthly collaborative meetings. The replication efforts of these counties include such activities as sending judges to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) Child Abuse & Neglect Institute, participating in the Adoption Now panel reviews, participating in the Faces of CAFFA (CAFFA is the Coalition of Adoption and Foster Family Agencies) regional recruitment collaborative, convening stakeholder groups, co-chairing tribal outreach initiatives, and initiating alternative dispute resolution programs.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    New York City Model Court

    As noted in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, New York City is replicating the Model Court as seven Best Practice Parts operating throughout the city - two each in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, and one in Manhattan. The major activities of the Model Court and these Practice Parts over the past year include the following:

    • Expansion of Best Practices. New York City Family Court continued to expand the Best Practices concepts in its Child Protection Division. Although some Parts have additional staffing resources (case coordinator and referee teams) to work with the judge, all of the Child Protective Parts utilized some, if not all, of the recommended procedures time certain hearings, conferencing and early identification of services, and back end tracking which keeps cases on the calendar for judicial review. In an effort to monitor the cases more closely, judges and referees are scheduling court dates post disposition for status reports. As a result of this practice, parties must appear more frequently in court. To address the concern of caseworkers spending too much time in court, one borough working in collaboration with the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) and five of their contract agencies, has implemented a 'court report' project where comprehensive and detailed reports are submitted in lieu of a caseworker's appearance. In addition to the submission of a report, caseworkers must also be on call to answer any questions that may arise. Initial reaction to this pilot has been very good due to the quality of the reports.
    • Education and Training. The New York City Family Court Administrator for Education and Training has established a program for all newly appointed Family Court judges and judges who are temporarily assigned to Family Court. Additionally, ongoing training programs for judges, referees, support magistrates, and court attorneys on a wide variety of topics (e.g., domestic violence, mental health, child development, evidence, forensic evaluations) take place throughout the year. The Court continued to work with the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children (Commission) to expand the work of the Babies Can't Wait project with a focus on making consultants available to the judges in both Queens County and Kings County for cases where infants are one of the subject children.
    • ASFA and Title IV-E Reviews. Recognizing the importance of achieving compliance with ASFA and dealing with problems identified in federal reviews, a citywide and statewide workgroup was formed to address the systemic issues that not only delay permanency but are a major source of Title IV-E eligibility errors. A major undertaking of this group is considering the process by which permanency petitions are filed and hearings are held.
    • Adoptions Now Initiative. In 2004, the New York City Family Court continued its participation in the National Adoption Day initiative, which began in 1999 as a means of promoting and celebrating adoption, by holding a week-long event commencing on November 15, 2004. During 'Adoption Week,' individual, county-wide events took place in each of the five county court houses on a designated day. Over 500 participants were in attendance throughout the week, including judicial officers, other court staff, attorneys and agency personnel. The cumulative efforts of these individuals resulted in 479 children being newly adopted during this event.
    • Other Adoption Initiatives. During 'Law Day' 2004 celebrations, 103 adoption cases were finalized in the New York City Family Court. The Court is also working closely with the city and state child welfare agencies to eliminate the obstacles to agency adoptions. Twice yearly, in addition to court reviews, the case of every freed child is reviewed by a team of representatives from the city, state, court, and private foster care agencies to identify and reduce delays that may prevent the child from moving forward to permanency. A Pro Bono Adoption Project is a collaborative effort of the New York City private bar with the New York City Family Court, Administration for Children's Services (ACS), Mobilization for Youth (MFY), Legal Services, the Legal Aid Society and foster care professionals. The Project provides needed legal representation to foster parents in adoption proceedings. During 2004, the Project attorneys handled approximately 56 cases and represented foster parents in approximately 20 adoption finalization proceedings.

    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Westchester County Family Court

    To implement the goals of ASFA, the Westchester County Family Court has established a Neglect and Abuse Permanency Part. The Part, located in the White Plains Family Court, hears all neglect and abuse cases involving children from Westchester County (except Yonkers). The major goals of the Permanency Part were detailed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004.

    One of those goals is to identify and remove barriers to permanency, both systemic and individual. To achieve this goal, a multidisciplinary Advisory Council on Permanency for Children meets bimonthly. The Council is chaired by the Part Judge, and includes representatives from the Court, the Department of Social Services, the County Attorney's office, and service providers. The Council has set up separate committees to address each of the following areas of special concern: appropriate educational services for foster children; mentoring resources for foster children; adult guardianships for 18-year old foster children who have adult care permanency plans; mediation of issues in abuse and neglect cases; and visitation between parents and children in foster care. As a result of the Visitation Committee's recommendation, the Westchester County Department of Social Services is putting out a Request for Proposals to establish a visitation center to facilitate extensive visitation between foster children and their parents.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Treatment of Parties: Special Waiting Areas and Improved Spaces

    Monroe County Best Practices Project

    During 2004, Monroe County Family Court established a Best Practices Project to work to achieve permanency for children in accordance with federal mandates. Over the past year, the Monroe County Family Court has instituted the following programs:

    • Family Case Conferencing. Cases are selected from a particular courtroom where one or more children are in foster care. The court attorney conducts two pre-trial conferences prior to a Fact Finding on all cases in which a child has been removed from the home. The first conference takes place three to 10 days after the case first appears before the court, and placement, case plan, and visitation are discussed. All parties, attorneys, family members, or interested individuals are invited to attend. The second conference is held 30 days from the date of the initial conference.
    • Title IV-E. A review team appointed by the supervising judge consists of his law clerk, the Monroe Deputy Chief Clerk for Family Court, a law clerk for a judge in Ontario County, and the Seventh District CIP manager. The team reviewed Family Court files within the Seventh Judicial District for compliance with ASFA. During the review process, the team also met with an agency representative from each county, a representative of the Family Court Clerk's Office, judges, and law clerks. The team developed a set of tools and worksheets to document data. The administrative Family Court Judge reviewed the information with each County's Family Court judges, and provided the findings to the Chief Clerk and the County Attorney. In addition to reviews, the team has facilitated ASFA/Title IV-E eligibility requirement training for court staff, the Department of Human Services (DHS) law department, and foster care agency where the child is placed.
    • Freed Children/Adoption. The Court Improvement Project collaborates with the Department of Human Services and the Office of Children and Family Services on adoption panel reviews, identifying possible solutions and strategies to expedite adoption for freed children. Family Court and agency staff gather valuable knowledge from focus groups and 'Speak Outs' for children with independent living goals. The Court Improvement Coordinator attends and presents at Regional Adoption Exchange Days, integrating the court perspective with the agency on adoption gaps and barriers.

    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Implementation and Review Teams
    Alternative Dispute Resolution
    Community Collaboration

    Albany County Case Coordinator

    The Court Improvement Project is funding a part-time case coordinator for the three judges in the Albany County Family Court. This case coordinator serves as a liaison with the Department of Social Services, tracks compliance with post-dispositional court orders, and works with the child welfare permanency mediation project. The case coordinator is responsible for scheduling all mediation sessions and maintaining the schedule of available dates and times, including notifying parties, attorneys, and all outside agencies involved. The coordinator is the liaison between the Family Court and the agencies responsible for conducting and participating in the mediation, and is responsible for sharing information about the mediation sessions with the Court.

    Albany County's Permanency Mediation program has proven to be an effective way to settle a number of difficult cases. Since its inception in 2003, 27 families have been served. In 2005, there were six referrals; four have been settled in mediation and two are still pending.

    Albany County Family Court is currently in the planning stages for implementing case conferencing of abuse and neglect cases. The Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families has been involved in preliminary discussions with the Court on the project and has indicated its willingness to participate. Additional meetings are scheduled during the summer of 2005 to add representatives of the Albany County Public Defenders' Office, the Albany County Conflict Defenders' Office, and the Law Guardian panel as stakeholders in the planning process.
    Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

    Oneida County Model Court

    Oneida County Family Court's Model Permanency Court program began operation on May 5, 2003 and was discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. The Supervising Judge and his Court Attorney piloted the Model Permanency Court program applying best practice principles to the child welfare caseload. The program is achieving significant success in insuring compliance with ASFA standards and expediting the achievement of permanency for children in abuse and neglect cases through intensive case management and review. Building on the success achieved during the first year and a half of operation, which was addressed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the program was expanded in September 2004 to include the child welfare caseload of all three judges of Oneida County Family Court. A designated Court Attorney Referee handles these cases. The Referee presides over all cases involving the abuse and neglect of children, and conducts all permanency hearings for children removed from their homes as a result of abuse, neglect, voluntary placement, termination of parental rights, or surrender.

    In addition to improving outcomes for children in Oneida County, the Referee has provided information and training to many counties across the state seeking to implement case conferencing and best practices. The Referee provided formal training to judges, court attorneys, attorneys for respondent parents, Department of Social Services, and Law Guardian representatives. The Referee also serves as the Title IV-E court liaison to Oneida County Department of Social Services, assists in reviews, and provides information, assistance and training to the judges and court staff.

    The Court works in partnership with the County Department of Social Services, participating in a monthly stakeholder's meeting designed for problem solving, issue identification, and new idea generation and implementation. Through this partnership, the stakeholders developed a monthly CLE brown bag lunch series to educate the legal community on topics relevant to child welfare proceedings.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Dutchess County Family Court

    The Family Court Advisory Committee in Dutchess County meets monthly and has two active subcommittees reviewing visitation and independent living. The Visitation Subcommittee is researching a number of community locations where visits could occur. The Subcommittee has viewed the Baby and Me video that the Commission made available at the Sharing Success II Conference. The Subcommittee will begin deliberations about starting a similar program in Dutchess County.

    The Independent Living Subcommittee has asked the child welfare agency for the number of youth who are currently living in mentoring apartments in Dutchess County. The Subcommittee is looking into materials provided by the Commission on the Erie County Benchmark Permanency Hearing model. The committee is reaching out to the county school districts to establish a liaison either with the Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) or with the Poughkeepsie School District. This effort is in direct response to the half-day Education Training provided by the Commission's consultant in October 2004. The stakeholder process is resulting in the sharing of data between child welfare agency and the Family Court, e.g., the number of youth living in independent mentoring apartments and the Title IV-E list of children in foster care placement.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    Erie County Family Treatment Court

    The Erie County Family Treatment Court (FTC) has been operating since May 2001. Throughout 2004, the ECFC Family Treatment Court averaged 56 active clients, which included 19 graduations from the Program. Forty-six children were reunified with their parents and 77% of these children were in care under one year.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Suffolk County Family Treatment Court

    The Suffolk County Family Treatment Court, which has been described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, is in the third and final year of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) enhancement grant. The grant has allowed for the expansion of the treatment capacity at one of the community treatment providers, an after-hours warm line for the clients, and family group conferencing services for Family Treatment Court clients. The Suffolk Family Treatment Court has grown substantially within the last year. As of March 2005 there were 82 active clients and 165 children being monitored.

    In the last year, the Family Treatment Court has also implemented a new legal incentive for respondents. Provided their children were never placed in foster care, respondents who enter and graduate will be given an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, where the judge adjourns the case without making a finding of fact regarding neglect. The parents must comply with a service plan to keep the children safe.

    In partnership with the Education Assistance Corporation, a local service provider, the Family Treatment Court has expanded supervised visitation options by referring clients to 'Time Together.' The program is staffed by interns, who supervise visitation for clients and reinforce parenting techniques.

    The Family Treatment Court is seeking another SAMHSA grant to hire staff, including a peer support facilitator, to accommodate the increasing number of clients with mental health problems and to expand the Court's ability to extend its supervision of family members who are indicated by the child welfare agency for failure to protect. With the addition of staff, the Court will be able to better educate family members about the disease of addiction and thereby extend the Court's support to the entire family.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Senior Court Analyst/Nassau County Best Practices Part

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project hired a Senior Court Analyst for Nassau, Queens, and Suffolk Counties. From January to August 2004, the Senior Court Analyst spent two days a month in Nassau County on Court Improvement Initiatives. During this time, she continued to participate in the monthly review of orders for compliance with ASFA and Title IV-E. Since December 2004, the Court Analyst spends at least one day a week in Nassau County working on Court Improvement initiatives, such as establishing a stakeholder process and a protocol committee for implementing reforms, arranging for training on the use of early case conferencing, starting a mediation project, and launching the Babies Can't Wait Project.

    The Stakeholder Committee created a smaller subgroup, the Protocol Committee, to develop protocols for a Best Practices Part. The Court Analyst is a member of the Stakeholder Committee as well as the Protocol Committee. She provided technical assistance through written materials from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and sample protocols from model Best Practices Parts such as Pima County (Arizona), New York City Family Court, and Oneida County Family Court.

    The Protocol Committee established the following goals:

    • Increasing communication and collaboration among courts, agencies, attorneys, and families.
    • Reducing delays in achieving permanency.
    • Decreasing lengths of stay in out-of-home care.
    • Complying with the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
    • Reducing delays in completion of cases.
    • Holding timely and substantive hearings.
    • Improving scheduling and time management for courts, agencies, attorneys, and litigants.

    The Protocol Committee identified the need for a case coordinator to work with the court attorney on monitoring progress towards permanency for children. Funding for this position was provided by the Commission with CIP funds and the position was filled in December 2004. The case coordinator attends all case conferences and monitors case progress through contact with all of the parties and maintains monthly statistics.

    Through the Protocol Committee meetings, the Nassau County Department of Social Services has offered to have foster care caseworkers utilize the infant development checklist on all cases where infants are the subject of an indicated case of abuse or neglect.

    The Best Practices Part in Nassau County became operational on January 3, 2005 and is staffed by one judge, a court attorney, and a case coordinator. The Best Practices Part was expanded to include the second of two abuse and neglect judges in the spring of 2005 and will eventually include any abuse and neglect case regardless of the stage of the case.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

    Unified Case Management System

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, New York implemented a statewide data system, Universal Case Management System (UCMS), in 2003. A Permanency Planning Module is the latest enhancement that will be added to the Family Court Universal Case Management System. The Permanency Module will collect information about children who have been removed from their homes as a result of a child protective petition as well as associated case types (termination of parental rights, foster care placements and review, and adoption). In addition, data for children who are considered Juvenile Delinquents or Persons in Need of Supervision will also be collected as these children are affected by ASFA guidelines.

    The heart of the new module is Child Event Tracking. When a child is removed from their home and enters the foster care system, a 'Permanency Episode' will be started in UCMS. From this point in time, UCMS will track all of the significant events in that child's journey through the court system and display them in a clear format. The judge will be able to view the child's progress through the case. UCMS will also produce a time line report for the judge of the events in this child's case to help easily determine if the child is on tract with the timeline mandates of ASFA.

    Currently, there is a state level data book project and two local (Erie County and New York City) data exchange projects in the works. The state project, funded by the Pew Fostering Results Project, will develop a county-by-county database and data book of child welfare data, court data, and other demographic data on children. The CIP is working on this project in collaboration with the New York State Office of Children and Families, the Office of Court Administration, and the Council on Children and Families. The Council publishes the New York Kids Count Data Book, which is part of the national KIDS COUNT network, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Council has agreed to create a new 'judicial' profile in its Kids Wellbeing Indicators Clearinghouse (KWIC) where the court data and additional child welfare data will be stored with a wealth of other data on child well being. The KWIC database, which is interactive and accessible to the public, allows users to develop their own profiles using different combinations and permutations of the data in KWIC.

    In Erie County, the data sharing project is led by a court/child welfare Stakeholder Committee and has accomplished the following:

    • Evaluated confidentiality issues surrounding the 'sharing' of system data.
    • Conducted a pilot data sharing project to evaluate systems capacity and shared data elements.
    • Worked with the Design Workgroup of the UCMS Permanency Planning Module to incorporate local needs.
    • Outlined the potential data elements to be shared.
    • Developed initial reports.
    • Drafted a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the process of collecting data and transferring it into a "third platform."

    The Committee has begun to map out a process to share this data through the use of the 'third platform,' which would then be accessed to develop reports. The process will involve selecting certain data elements from each system, commuting those to a third 'site,' and generating reports from that combined data.

    In the second data sharing project, the New York City Family Court and the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) have embarked on a small data sharing project funded by the Annie Casey Foundation. The project will enhance information sharing between the Family Court and ACS, and achieve more timely and informed permanency plans for each child in foster care. The two entities believe that productivity gains can be realized by creating an electronic interface between the data systems used by the court and ACS.

    At this time, much of the basic case composition data which ACS Family Court Legal Services Division uses to generate legal documents must be manually reentered by the Family Court into the UCMS and, similarly, much of the legal data generated in UCMS, i.e., court and case specific data and findings, is manually reentered by ACS into its data system. Much of the duplicative data entry could be eliminated by the creation of an interface enabling data sharing between the two systems, and the integrity and accuracy of the data would be greatly improved by synchronizing the data between the two systems. The interface would allow automation of several tasks that are currently being done manually with a corresponding savings on both sides. The following tasks will be performed in the course of this project:

    • Capture and document the existing process and workflow.
    • Analyze the existing process and identify the opportunities for automation.
    • Generate a detailed description of the proposed functionality.
    • Generate a diagram of the new/modified workflow.
    • Develop cost schedules estimates.
    • Generate a proposed project plan.

    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    The Court Improvement Project continues to partner with the Unified Court System's Office of ADR Programs and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to collaboratively support a number of permanency mediation pilots. The permanency mediation projects are in different stages of implementation across the state. Currently, the following counties have access to mediation: Albany, Chemung, Erie, Kings, Monroe, New York, Niagara, Oneida, Rockland, and Westchester. The program will be expanded to Bronx and Queens Counties in the very near future and Nassau County will be referring cases to their CIP-funded staff mediator/case coordinator once the Best Practices Part is fully operational.

    Across the state a total of 172 cases have been referred, 142 cases have been mediated, 110 mediations have been completed, and 88 cases resulted in a mediation agreement. Currently, two evaluations are underway: a process evaluation and an outcome evaluation. The process evaluation is being conducted by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and will document the collaboration between OCFS and the Courts. The outcome evaluation is being conducted by OCFS. Both evaluations will include information about each of the local projects.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    "Babies Can't Wait" Project

    The Babies Can't Wait Project has been discussed in detail in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. The Babies Can't Wait Project is used in several counties. Some of the major activities of the Project in the counties include the following:

    • Erie County. The Babies Can't Wait Subcommittee has three identified subgroups: 'Getting the Message Out,' 'Developing Resources/Information,' and 'Continuing Education/Training.' The 'Getting the Message Out' subgroup is working with the CDHS to develop a comprehensive website and to provide information on infant development and attachment needs, as well as related community services to help meet those needs. In addition, it will provide useful links for parents, foster parents, caseworkers, and trainers. The 'Developing Resources/Information' is developing packets for birth parents, foster parents, and caseworkers to disseminate when infants enter foster care. The packets include information on child development, establishing positive birth and foster parent relationships, and additional materials and resources focusing on the special needs of infants in foster care. The 'Continuing Education/Training' subgroup is charged with furthering training opportunities for caseworkers and foster parents. The next seminar is scheduled for July 2005 and will be entitled 'Resilience: When Things Go Well for Children in Foster Care.' It will include a discussion of the health and developmental information needed to make appropriate decisions for children in care.
    • Queens County. Over the past year, Babies Can't Wait Phase Two placed a Family Court Early Childhood Specialist in the Queens County Family Court to develop borough-specific resources for infants, to provide ongoing training and consultation, and to collect and analyze data involving infant cases. Queens County also has a Babies Can't Wait Stakeholders Group, which is led by two Abuse and Neglect judges and includes members from the Queens Family Court, Administration for Children's Services (ACS), Legal Aid, the 8B Panel, ACS Division of Legal Services (DLS), CASA, the Queens Early Intervention Program, Head Start, Schneider's Hospital, and a foster care agency. Four core training sessions were held: 1) Understanding the Health Care Needs of Infants in Foster Care; 2) Understanding Infant Development; 3) Infant Mental Health and Attachment; and 4) Early Intervention. Following the core training, a number of follow-up clinics were held on topics including shaken baby syndrome, Head Start, the impact of maternal depression on infant development, and assessing parental capacity of parents with infants in foster care.
    • Monroe County. With the assistance of the Court Improvement Project, the Monroe County Family Court held a full-day conference to launch the Babies Can't Wait Project. The audience of 135 included legal, medical, psychological, developmental, early invention, education, and agency providers. A distinguished panel of speakers from the University of Rochester presented the findings from their research on the medical, developmental, and emotional needs of infants and young children in foster care. The conference was a first in a series of educational sessions being offered each month throughout 2004 - 2005. The Babies Can't Wait sessions are taped and available for training purposes, and a website will offer the presentations online.

    The Babies Can't Wait Project continued to publish booklets, articles and papers and training tools including:

    • An "infant checklist" [NY-04-02] of five questions on bright yellow laminated paper that has been distributed to hundreds of ACS staff, lawyers, judges, CASAs and foster care agency staff.
    • "Building Bridges for Babies in Foster Care: The Babies Can't Wait Initiative" [NY-04-03] in the Spring 2004 issue of The Juvenile and Family Court Journal.
    • "Opening the Door to Early Intervention for Abuse and Neglected Children: A New CAPTA Requirement" [NY-04-04] in the May issue of the American Bar Association's Child Law Practice.
    • "Since Babies Can't Wait for Services, They Need to Have Their Day in Court" [NY-04-05] in the October 21, 2004 issue of the Child Protection Report.
    • "Seize the Promise of Early Intervention for the Abused, Neglected" and 'Legislation Affirms Need to Increase Access to Services' [NY-05-01] in the April 2005 issue of the Early Childhood Report.
    • The Commission has submitted an article about the policy implications of CAPTA for The Journal of Infants and Young Children.

    Related to the "Babies Can't Wait" Project and infants generally, the Commission staff is serving on several national and statewide workgroups and committees including:

    • The Infant Mental Health Subcommittee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
    • The National Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists and the Child Welfare League of America Birth to Five Assessment Workgroup.
    • The Task Force on Health Care for Children in Foster Care, American Academy of Pediatrics, District II, New York State.
    • The Early Childhood Coordinating Systems Infant and Toddler Workgroup.
    • The New York City Department of Health and Mental Health Committee on Early Childhood Mental Health.

    In addition, Commission staff have made numerous presentations and workshops on the topic of infants in foster care, including to the joint conference of the American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association in June 2004, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau in September 2004, National Training Institute of Zero to Three in December 2004, and the Infant Toddler Conference in March 2005.

    The Babies Can't Wait Project hosted two symposia in 2004. In May 2004, the Honorable Leonard Edwards, Lead Judge of the Model Court in Santa Clara, California was the speaker. Judge Edwards spoke about his efforts and those of other model courts to increase the quantity and quality of visits between children in foster care and their parents. In October 2004, Mary Dozier, Ph.D., University of Delaware, shared the findings from her groundbreaking research projects on infants in foster care from an attachment theory perspective.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Education Project

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children supports an Education Project to improve the educational experiences and outcomes for children in foster care. The Commission retained the services of an educational consultant for this Project. The Education Project includes three major components: 1) research and publications; 2) training; and 3) an Erie County initiative to address the educational needs of children in foster care, see Erie County Family Court.

    Over the past year, the major activity of the Education Project was the unveiling of "Education Matters" series of trainings in large counties. The Education Consultant trained court and agency staff, law guardians, CASA volunteers and staff, and in some cases local school district staff. Trainings were held in Albany, Dutchess, Erie, Oneida, Monroe, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Topics addressed at the training included the following:

    • School experiences of children in foster care.
    • Guiding principles for education of children in foster care.
    • Duties of schools and public and private child welfare agencies regarding education of children in foster care.
    • School enrollment attendance.
    • School records access.
    • General and special education services.
    • Shared parenting roles and legal roles of the State, the parents, and foster parents.
    • Foster care/education collaborative initiatives within and outside New York State.

    Another major activity of the project has been to write a practice-oriented law review article that highlights the use of the law as a tool to achieve educational stability and improve education outcomes of children in foster care entitled Children Adrift: Addressing the Educational Needs of Children in Foster Care. The Albany Law Review accepted the draft for publication.

    The Education Booklet, a guide for judges, attorneys, and other stakeholders, is in the final stages of development and will be available by the end of 2005. Additionally, working within the framework of the Erie County Permanency for Children Collaborative, the Education Consultant provides consultation to the School Transitions Workgroup and the Benchmark Hearing Workgroup in Erie County Family Court. The Education Consultant also facilitated the assignment of a Buffalo Public Schools liaison to the Erie County Family Court and launched a lunch time discussion series for all those involved in the 'Bridges to Education' stakeholders group.
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
    New/Innovative Programs

    MSW Judicial Internship

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Commission developed a Masters of Social Work (MSW) judicial internship that places MSW students in Family Court to assist judges and court staff in reviewing case plans, shaping dispositions, facilitating case conferences, and identifying unmet needs of children and families. Recognizing the need for onsite supervision and coordination efforts to sustain the project and meet the educational needs of the students, the Commission hired a MSW consultant to provide onsite, weekly clinical supervision to students from Fordham University placed in the Kings County Family Court and ongoing oversight for the project. The presiding judge provides task supervision and meets weekly with the student and consultant-supervisor to ensure that assignments are appropriate.

    Over the past year, the Internship Project Social Work Internship project continued to assist the Court in meeting the ASFA mandate of timely and appropriate permanency planning and oversight of services. The semester involves introduction to the technical aspects, or legal process in family court, of social work practice in a legal setting by having the student observe case conferences conducted by the Court Attorney and assessing case planning notes submitted by the agency responsible for providing services. Weekly supervision topics include review of the student assessments as well as discussions about encouraging comprehensive and less standard approaches to service delivery that might facilitate the goals of reunification or alternate permanency planning. The student progresses to participating in case conferences, and subsequently to facilitating conferences around assessment and service planning issues. Some of these conferences are supervised to evaluate the student's performance and progress and to discuss possible approaches. The student is also required to participate in an administrative project as designated by the judge.
    Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

    Legislation

    The Governor submitted legislation to streamline the court process by giving families faster court review of the progress they have made toward reunification. The 'permanency bill' requires speedier service planning at the critical stage when a child is first placed in foster care and throughout the child's duration in care. It frees the courts from repeated adjournments, giving them the ability to focus on the important permanency issues that must be addressed in a timely manner. The legislation will provide the courts with the ability to expedite termination of parental rights where it is clear that the child cannot be reunified with his or her family and it will also help New York meet the goals of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act.

    Specifically, this legislation contains the following provisions:

    • Requires the courts to hold hearings immediately after a child is removed from the home to determine whether that removal is appropriate and to return the child when it is not.
    • Keeps a child's case on the court calendar and before the judge.
    • Requires local social services districts to come up with a permanency plan for a child as soon as possible after placement into foster care.
    • Provides parents who cannot afford an attorney with representation while their child remains in foster care.
    • Requires that local districts provide the courts with the information they need to determine whether a child should remain in foster care, whether appropriate services have been provided to the family, and what efforts have been made to achieve the child's permanency goal.
    • Requires that courts revisit the case every six months if a child remains in foster care.
    • Permits the local district to ask the court permission not to continue to make efforts to return a child home when: 1) a child has been abused after being returned home from foster care; 2) a child has been in and out of foster care two or more times; 3) an infant five days old or less has been abandoned; or 4) the parent(s) have refused to engage in services designed to provide a safe and stable home to the child.
    • Expedites processing of child welfare appeals.
    • Eliminates the requirement that a child remain in foster care needlessly for 12 consecutive months where the court has determined that no reasonable efforts toward a return home are required.

    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Reassessment

    The New York State Court Improvement Project Reassessment is aimed at empirically assessing the timeliness, quality, and effectiveness of the Family Court's performance with respect to the court's management and processing of child protection cases. Specifically, the Reassessment will achieve the following:

    • Evaluate the level of state conformity with federal legislation, i.e., ASFA and ICWA.
    • Evaluate the level of local and state implementation and adherence to nationally recognized best practices, such as those contained in the Resource Guidelines.
    • Assess the timeliness and quality of court proceedings in supporting the achievement of safe, timely permanency for children.
    • Determine the state's progress on its CIP reform efforts.
    • Identify strengths and weaknesses of court performance and outcomes.

    The final contract was signed in July 2004 and formal work on the reassessment began shortly thereafter. Specific tasks include assessment of the Automated Case Tracking Capacity and assessment of court performance in five sites: Erie County, Kings County (Brooklyn), Oneida County (Rome and Utica), and Richmond County (Staten Island).
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    In June 2001, New York participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). CIP staff members participated as members of the review team and helped identify stakeholders to be interviewed.

    CIP staff members also served on the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) team. In the implementation of the PIP, both CIP and court system representatives (judges, attorneys, and court staff) are involved in a strategy to strengthen the interface between the courts and the child welfare agency. CIP staff and court system representatives are members of the Statewide Team which is convened three times a year by the child welfare agency. CIP staff invited representatives from the Pew Fostering Results Project to present on the Pew Commission and projects that resulted from the Commission's work to the Statewide Team.

    A CIP staff member serves on the Training Committee that has planned and conducted 'Sharing Success,' the first conference for Family Courts and local Departments of Social services in September 2003. The CIP, in conjunction with the child welfare agency, sponsored and completed eleven regional forums entitled Sharing Success II: Regional Forums in each borough of New York City in November and December 2004. The regional approach made it possible for larger teams of court and child welfare agency staff to attend the forums. Topics covered included the Freed Child Permanency Hearing [NY-04-06], the work of the Adoption Now Workgroup, visitation, the Resource Guidelines, Infant Mental Health, and permanency hearings.

    Planning is underway for Sharing Success III, scheduled for December 2005 in Albany as a statewide conference. CIP funds are used to underwrite the costs of participation by judges, attorneys, and court staff, and to defray the costs for the facility and presenter travel and fees.

    As part of the PIP, and as described in Alternative Dispute Resolution, the CIP and child welfare agency provide funding in conjunction with the Office of Court Administration's ADR Office to a number of mediation projects around the state. Evaluations of these projects are underway.
    Child and Family Services Review




    North Carolina


    To Table of Contents

    Mini-Grant Program

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the North Carolina Court Improvement Project (CIP) has used CIP funds to provide mini-grants to local court improvement projects. The CIP issued a Request for Proposals in March 2005, and expects to award grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 by the end of the summer of 2005.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    CaseWise/JWise

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, North Carolina is implementing the CaseWise/JWise Project to collect data on juvenile court cases, including abuse, neglect, and dependency cases. Court improvement funds are being used to support the implementation of CaseWise/JWise, which will address the data entry, case tracking, and reporting needs of juvenile clerks of courts, Family Court personnel, trial court administrators, and other judicial support staff. The updated system will improve juvenile functionality, reporting capabilities, mail merge, and appeal details. Furthermore, the updated CaseWise/JWise system will allow for sharing of data within the court system.

    Currently, data elements are being defined. Performance measures designed in the form of the ASFA module will begin in July 2005. A list of requested enhancements, adjudication and disposition requirements (draft), and sample screens [NC-05-01] are available for review. CaseWise/JWise is projected to be available statewide by the end of 2005.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

    Legislative Proposals

    The North Carolina Court Improvement Project is supporting major legislation to revise the state Juvenile Code. This bill, HB 1150, is pending and some of the major provisions include the following:

    • Appeal Cessation of Reunification Efforts. Provides that when a trial court orders the Department of Social Services to cease reunification efforts, and subsequently parents' rights are terminated, the parent may address the decision to cease reunification efforts as an issue in an appeal of the termination of parental rights. This provision allows parents to preserve the issue for appellate review without appealing the separate order, thus reducing delays.
    • Appointment of Provisional Counsel for Parents. Provides that juvenile clerk will appoint provisional counsel for parents with the summons and petition. At the first hearing, counsel will be confirmed unless the parent fails to appear at the hearing, fails to qualify for appointed counsel or retains private counsel, or executes a waiver of counsel. Protects due process rights of parents by allowing them to consult with counsel prior to attending any court hearing.
    • Timing of Disposition Hearing. Requires that the dispositional hearing be held no later than 30 days after adjudication.
    • Notification to Guardian Ad Litem of Juvenile's Change in Placement. When DSS has custody or placement authority for a juvenile represented by a guardian ad litem, DSS shall give the guardian notice of its intention to change the placement. If emergency circumstances prevent notification, DSS shall notify the guardian within 72 hours of any placement change.
    • Provides Criteria to Determine Whether TPR is in Juvenile's Best Interest. After a court has determined that grounds exist to terminate parental rights, it must independently consider whether doing so is in the juvenile's best interest.
    • Hearings Scheduled if Orders Not Timely Filed. Automatic hearings will be held on a delay if a disposition order, permanency planning order, order adjudicating grounds to terminate parental rights, or best interests order is not filed within 30 days of the hearing.

    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    NC Collaborative for Children & Families

    Representatives from the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Court Improvement Project continue to be involved in the NC Collaborative for Children & Families, a group concerned with the state's system of care for children with mental health needs. According to its webpage, found at http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/mhddsas/childandfamily/soc-statecollab.htm, one of the Collaborative's key purposes 'is to ensure that children with behavioral health needs (and their families) who are out of home or at risk for removal from their homes in order to access comprehensive care receive priority attention through a unified community effort.' Over the past year, the Collaborative has established the following Committees to further its work: Evaluation, Assessment, School Based, Training, and Cultural Competencies and Practices. The Collaborative is currently focused on strategic planning.

    In addition, the Collaborative serves as the state advisory committee for the federal System of Care (SOC) sites. The Collaborative considers issues identified by local or state agency representatives, family members, advocates, or others. Issues have included coordination of services, funding, training needs, local reporting requirements, duplication of services, and how to make the system more user friendly. The Collaborative is looking at many issues to support state reform, including how to build community capacity, how to share cost fairly, and cultural competence. The Training Subcommittee is assessing the possibility of developing a web-based orientation program for all new employees to teach and test SOC concepts. The School Based Subcommittee is looking at ways to effectively access mental health services in the schools.

    The CIP is working with the Collaborative to present a conference in September 2005, 2005 System of Care Conference: Cultivating Learning Communities. The CIP Director will be presenting a session on cultural competence.
    Community Collaboration

    Reassessment

    North Carolina contracted with the University of North Carolina School of Social Work to conduct its reassessment, which is largely focused on evaluation of the Family Court Pilot Project. Dr. Raymond Kirk is the principal evaluator.

    The Court Improvement Project Advisory Committee met with the contractor to review possible study designs. The Advisory Committee was interested in comparing the efficacy of the Family Court Pilots to the traditional District Court procedures for handling dependency cases. Only cases in which an order for non-secure custody was issued by a judge are included in the study.

    The variables selected for study included time-related measures (e.g., length of time from filing of a petition to the first hearing), measures indicating court operations (e.g., the number of continuances granted, the number of judges involved in a case over its term), and permanency measures (e.g., the types of permanence achieved and their distributions across the samples of cases reviewed). CIP Advisory Committee members also expressed interest in qualitative measures including key stakeholders attitudes and opinions about the Family Courts, as compared to their within-district predecessor courts.

    Once the variable list and measures were established, research instruments were designed and reviewed by the Advisory Committee. These included a case abstraction instrument that would be used by case record reviewers to abstract data from the court records, a form to be used to track child placements during the term of the case, and a survey form about the Family Court Pilots to be sent to key stakeholders.

    Once the instruments were finalized, the Advisory Committee selected five study sites: Judicial Districts 6A (Halifax County); 8 (Lenoir, Greene and Wayne Counties); 14 (Durham County); 20 (Stanly, Richmond, Union and Anson Counties); and 25 (Caldwell, Burke and Catawba Counties). Protocol site visits were conducted at each site and evaluators met with the Chief Judges (and Family Court Judges, if different) in each district, as well as with the court clerks and administrators in each district. The purpose of the study was explained, the procedures for data collection were discussed, and agreements were reached with respect to how records would be handled and confidentiality protected. Court Orders were also obtained for each District and County to ensure access to the necessary records in each individual courthouse. Other than extracting data from District 14, data collection has been successful. Data from all Districts except District 14 has been entered into a relational database for analysis. District 14 data was determined to be unreliable for this purpose.

    At the present time, the contractor and Committee are identifying key stakeholders in each of the Family Court sites to receive a survey. To make full use of the web-based technology for this survey, the evaluators are obtaining email addresses for each recipient and compiling them into a Family Court Stakeholder survey listserv. The CIP Advisory Committee is also in the final stages of selecting the comparison districts.

    During the upcoming year, activities will include the second round of site visits in comparison sites beginning with protocol visits, obtaining Court Orders for record access, and then actual data collection. This data will be entered into the same relational database as the first round data, and all data will be analyzed simultaneously. Analysis will be followed by interpretation and the production of project reports and briefing materials. The CIP Advisory Committee will be convened on at least two occasions during the analysis period to review and react to interim results and to help inform subsequent analyses. The anticipated completion date of the reassessment is April 2006.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    North Carolina was the second state to participate in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). The state's Program Improvement Plan (PIP) was approved and is being implemented. In the spring of 2004, the child welfare agency held two stakeholder meetings to review the 1999 - 2004 Child and Family Service Plan self-assessment and present the 2004 - 2009 proposed Plan.
    Child and Family Services Review




    North Dakota


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    GAL Model Program

    As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, North Dakota has developed and expanded its GAL model program across the state. The GAL model program is a three-tiered model, which provides for GAL representation based on the complexity of each case. The first level of the tier is the lay, or non-attorney, guardian ad litem, whose role is to represent the best interests of the child. The lay GAL remains neutral in order to carry out the role and responsibility without prejudice and with objectivity. The second and third tier of the framework exists for the cases where there is greater legal complexity or where there is a need to include other experts to assist with developing recommendations for the court. These tiers involve the appointment of an attorney GAL or include flexibility to appoint other specialists or experts to assist a non-attorney GAL, depending on the requirements of the case.

    North Dakota currently has 67 GALs in all seven state judicial districts. Basic GAL training is provided twice a year; the most recent training was conducted in April 2005 in Bismarck. The training curriculum is a total of 18 hours. GALs must also participate in 12 hours of additional training a year.

    The Court Improvement Project (CIP) Task Force has a subcommittee to evaluate the GAL Model Program to determine the quality of representation. A report from the subcommittee is expected in the fall of 2005.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

    ICWA Training

    In February 2005, the North Dakota CIP cosponsored a statewide Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Conference. This conference was instrumental in bringing together state and tribal stakeholders. A major area covered at the Conference was the enhancement of 'reasonable efforts' under ASFA to 'active efforts' under ICWA. The CIP Task Force appointed a subcommittee to study ICWA issues and make recommendations as to how compliance with ICWA can be maintained. A report from the ICWA subcommittee is expected in the fall of 2005.

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, North Dakota contracted with the Native American Training Institute to conduct regional meetings. The purpose of the regional meetings was to provide information and encourage dialogue about compliance with federal legislation, systems improvements, relationships between state and tribal entities, and collaborative efforts in the state. The information gathered from these regional meetings was used by the ICWA Conference Planning Committee in developing Conference topics.
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Other Training

    Education and Special Projects Coordinator

    The State Court Administrator's Office hired an Education and Special Projects Coordinator, who will start on August 1, 2005. This individual will be responsible for coordinating judicial branch education and facilitating special projects. The Education and Special Projects Coordinator will work closely with the Court Improvement Specialist to provide training and education for judges, court staff, and agency staff on ASFA and ICWA issues. Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

    Reassessment

    North Dakota completed its reassessment and submitted its report in August 2004. As a result of the reassessment findings, the Chief Justice requested that the Juvenile Policy Board review the North Dakota Uniform Juvenile Court Act. To accomplish this task, the Juvenile Policy Board was expanded to include a Department of Human Services representative, Department of Juvenile Services representative, state's attorney representative, county social services representative, defense attorney, and Juvenile Court Director. The Board will determine whether the language of the Act or any court rules need to be changed.

    In addition, an Advisory Committee is developing a Best Practices Manual for Juvenile Court operations. The draft manual will be reviewed by the Juvenile Policy Board before its expected distribution in September 2005.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    North Dakota participated in the Child and Family Services Review in September 2001. The North Dakota Court Improvement Project participated in the CFSR planning process and also assisted with the drafting of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP).

    The Assistant State Court Administrator for Trial Courts attends each stakeholder meeting at each review site, along with local court administrators and managers. Court representation as the PIP is implemented provides the court with feedback and the stakeholders with insight as to the court's role and the legal proceedings.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Ohio


    To Table of Contents

    Toledo Model Court

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Ohio entered into a contract with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to establish the Toledo Model Court. Over the past year, the Toledo Model Court has developed several different programs, including the following:

    • Attorney Mentor Pilot Program: The Model Court subcommittee and the Toledo Bar Association Juvenile Court Committee collaborated to develop an attorney mentor pilot program for attorneys with limited experience in child protection cases who are interested in accepting appointments. Each inexperienced attorney is assigned to three attorney mentors who are experienced in child protection law and currently accept court appointments. The inexperienced attorney must attend and observe one of the assigned mentors at each of the hearing types listed on the Mentor Pilot Program Checklist [OH-04-01]. Mediation and Family Drug Court sessions are also included in the required observations. There are currently five attorneys being mentored.

    • Domestic Violence Advocate: In collaboration with the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center, the Toledo Model Court provides a Crisis Counselor at shelter care hearings. In April 2004, the Toledo Model Court began providing a Crisis Counselor after shelter care hearings two days per week. Due to logistical problems, the program was modified to have the Crisis Counselor available for follow-up in home services. Working with children who have been exposed to violence or who are victims of violence, the Crisis Counselor works to improve outcomes for these children and their families. For example, the Crisis Counselor provides the non-offending parent or caretaker with information regarding domestic violence and available resources. The Crisis Counselor Protocol for Shelter Care Hearings is available for review [OH-04-02].

    • Court Oversight of Educational Plans for Children: The Toledo Model Court has increased the Court's oversight of educational plans for children in out-of-home care. For example, information concerning each child's school status is now addressed in both the Citizen's Review Board and CASA reports. The report forms have been modified to include the school currently attended, year or grade, type of classroom or specialized curriculum, attendance record, and specialized educational needs not yet met. Each judicial officer now inquires as to the child's school status at every dispositional or review hearing. The child welfare agency requires all staff to make educational needs a priority, in response to a study highlighting the consistently poor educational performance of foster care youth.

    • Greenbook Initiative Presentation: In February 2005, the Toledo Model Court and the Child Abuse Prevention Center hosted "A Lucas County Community Summit: The Greenbook Initiative." The day-long session focused on increasing the knowledge of professionals and leaders in the community about the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment. Nationally and internationally recognized speakers presented on how one community is using the recommendations found in the Greenbook to address system responses to co-occurring cases. Participants explored and identified ways in which Greenbook recommendations could be implemented locally so that institutional reforms could result in enhanced outcomes for domestic violence victims and their children. Evaluations from the summit indicated that the participants overwhelmingly felt the speakers knew the topic, were able to answer questions, and new information was received.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    GAL Standards and Training

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Ohio is establishing GAL standards. The Chief Justice appointed a Guardian ad Litem Standards Task Force that produced draft standards. The Chief Justice turned the draft standards over to the new Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Court, which is slated to vote on the recommendations in the near future.

    In order to facilitate transitional implementation of rules requiring mandatory GAL training, the Ohio CASA/GAL Association developed a standardized curriculum. The Ohio Network of Child Advocacy is working to establish an ongoing system for delivering the curriculum in a manner that is affordable and accessible on a statewide basis. It is anticipated that at least 12 training sessions will be offered across the state prior to enactment of new pre-service training requirements.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
    Education and Training
    Education and Training: Attorney/GAL Programs

    Family Law Caseflow Manager

    The Court Improvement Project continues to provide funding for the Family Law Caseflow Manager. This individual, a former Juvenile Court employee, provides case management assistance to Juvenile Courts. In addition to this work, the Family Law Caseflow Manager participated in the following activities over the past year:
    • Chaired a Family Law Team meeting for all Family Law Staff at the Ohio Supreme Court and with representation from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

    • Assisted with the planning and implementation of the Beyond the Numbers Project, a judiciary-driven initiative to improve local court practices in abuse, neglect, and dependent cases. This Project included a statewide judicial symposium in May 2004 to increase the understanding of the CFSR findings, review a challenge to the courts and stakeholders to see "through the eyes of a child," and define and encourage effective judicial leadership. The symposium was followed with judicial district meetings, regional stakeholders sessions, and local/county planning and implementation efforts. The goal is obtain local planning and commitment to assessing practices, improving practices, and strengthening oversight of cases.

    • Completed an analysis of all Ohio termination of parental rights (TPR) appeals decided in calendar year 2002. Presented the results to the Appellate Court Administrators, who developed a panel discussion on good practices for expediting TPR appeals at the February 2005 Appellate Judges' Conference.

    • Published a case management review of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court abuse, neglect, and dependency docket.

    • Provided staff support to the Advisory Committee on Children, Families, and the Courts.

    • Published a Juvenile Clerk's Best Practices Manual [OH-04-03].

    • Served on the National Steering Committee for the Fostering Results Juvenile Court Dependency Court Caseflow Curriculum.

    • Assisted with the court portion of the Ohio State Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS).

    • Started a Child Protection e-filing project in Lucas County.

    • Serves on a planning committee for the upcoming NCJFCJ Family Court Forum, scheduled to take place in October 2005.

    • Oversees the Ohio CIP reassessment effort.

    Finally, the Family Law Caseflow Manager is an integral team member in joint planning with the child welfare agency to address issues raised in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) and implement court-related Program Improvement Plan (PIP) activities.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Case Management and Planning
    Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff
    Child and Family Services Review

    Data Sharing Pilot

    Lucas County Juvenile Court has been selected to partner with the Ohio Supreme Court and the Department of Job and Family Services to pilot data sharing between the Public Child Services Agency and juvenile court databases. Activities will target increasing the speed with which courts process cases, giving courts the data necessary to monitor case status, and reduce the duplicate keying of information.
    Technology
    Technology: Information Sharing

    Family Drug Courts

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project is providing funds to support four Family Drug Courts. Eleven Family Drug Courts continue to operate in Ohio, with three more added during 2004. Five courts received "start-up" funding assistance through the Ohio Supreme Court and the Department of Job and Family Services.

    The Specialized Dockets Section of the Ohio Supreme Court, in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, was awarded a Byrne Memorial Grant to create the Drug Court Practitioner Network. The Drug Court Practitioner Network is organized based on a network of drug court coordinators, judges, prosecutors, treatment counselors, probation officers, children services workers, defense counsel, and case managers. The Network provides free training for drug court personnel for continuing education credit and establishes a forum to communicate with peers in their field. The Network cosponsored a statewide Drug Court Conference in December 2004, which was attended by over 200 practitioners.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training

    Reassessment

    Ohio awarded a contract for completion of its reassessment to the National Center for State Courts. The Family Law Caseflow Manager is overseeing this contract and the reassessment is expected to be complete by June 30, 2005.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Ohio participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) during 2002. The CIP Coordinator was interviewed as part of the CFSR. The Ohio Supreme Court and the child welfare agency worked together on the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) by asking counties to identify data relevant to those areas identified as needing improvement and provide it to the Court and the agency. The CIP reviewed and commented on the PIP.

    The PIP is currently being implemented. Several CIP initiatives are tied directly into PIP implementation, including the creation of the Family Law Caseflow Manager position, case management assistance to courts that consistently exceed timeframes, examination of reported issues of overcrowded dockets, analysis of termination of parental rights appeal delays, educational symposia to judges and court staff on permanency issues, development of best practice tools for local courts, promotion of the NCJFCJ Model Permanency Courts in Ohio, and promotion of guardian ad litem standards.

    Ohio is beginning preparation for the second round of reviews. Ohio's Beyond the Numbers Project is aimed at improving court processes for child abuse, neglect, and dependency cases. Case management technical assistance is being provided to local courts, appellate courts are attempting to reduce delays in processing termination of parental rights appeals, and judicial and court staff educational programs are addressing permanency issues.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Oklahoma


    To Table of Contents

    Oklahoma Child Permanency Mediation Pilot Project

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Oklahoma Supreme Court implemented a Permanency Mediation Pilot Project for cases of deprivation, abuse, or neglect. Prior to starting the Project, Oklahoma conducted specialized training for mediators. In order to qualify for the training, mediators were required to be certified as Family and Divorce Mediators pursuant to the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act. Five district court judges in five counties Washington County, Custer County, Payne County, Oklahoma County, and Tulsa County are leading the Project. These judges refer cases from their dockets to the Permanency Mediation Pilot Project. The Pilot Project offers mediation prior to contested hearings, to negotiate case plans, to resolve communication difficulties, and to address permanency concerns. Mediation may be introduced at any stage of the proceedings: preadjudication, adjudication, disposition, review hearings, permanency planning hearings, and termination. The goal in Oklahoma is timely, less contentious determinations of permanency for children. The Oklahoma Child Permanency Mediation Pilot Project is ongoing and continues to mediate cases.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Court Computerization

    Oklahoma is continuing with efforts to accomplish its primary goal of computerizing all 77 county courthouses. Court improvement funds have financed technology to support the new computer information system, the Oklahoma Court Information System (OCIS), which was discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. Hardware has been installed in some courthouses and other offices in the legal system. Computerization will ultimately permit electronic filings and computer-generated orders. The computerization process has been accomplished in 69 of the state's 77 counties. The new projected completion date for all 77 counties is the end of 2006.
    Technology
    Technology: Equipment
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

    Reassessment

    Oklahoma has sent its Request for Proposals to conduct the reassessment to the state purchasing department for publication. The projected completion date for the reassessment is July 31, 2006.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Oklahoma participated in the Child and Family Services Review during 2002. Although the court did not collaborate with the child welfare agency in planning or conducting the initial review, the two entities are working together on the Permanency Mediation Pilot Project as part of the Program Improvement Plan.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Oregon


    To Table of Contents

    Champion Judges

    As reported in Court Improvement Progress Report, the Oregon Juvenile Court Improvement Project (JCIP) developed a Champion Judges Program. The JCIP identifies, supports, and encourages judges who have an interest in child abuse and neglect law or who are assigned to hear such cases. These judges are identified at the annual New Judges' Orientation and special efforts are made to involve them in training and policy-making opportunities. At least one judge is part of the team that attends the annual CIP Partnership Conference.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    Dependency Mediation Pilot Project

    The JCIP has funded a dependency mediation pilot project in seven counties since 2000. Initially designed to occur before adjudication, for the purposes of early resolution and minimization of conflict, cases may be referred to mediation at any point that a conflict arises up to termination of parental rights. The pilot counties use mediators who are qualified and experienced in domestic relations mediation and have been further trained in dependency mediation.

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, budget restrictions prevented the JCIP from advocating for state funding and statewide implementation of mediation. Although the Dependency Mediation Project continues to be used effectively in the counties participating in the pilot, the JCIP Advisory Committee has recommended that JCIP funding be curtailed if outside funding is not secured. Therefore, the Dependency Mediation Project will be discontinued at the end of this fiscal year unless the Legislature provides sufficient funding to continue it.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Legal Representation of Children

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Oregon JCIP has been working to improve the level of representation for children. However, due to the continuing budget deficit, no definitive changes have been made and there is a continuing threat that funding for representation of children will be curtailed to reduce the deficit.

    The Oregon State Bar is updating the comprehensive standards for providing legal representation. These standards, written about 10 years ago, provide the framework for qualifying to contract or otherwise receive payment from the state to provide such representation. The revised standards should be completed during the summer of 2005.

    In addition, the JCIP developed an Attorney Academy. Members of the child abuse and neglect community who are concerned about attorney training are addressing both the initial training attorneys receive as they begin representing clients in child abuse and neglect cases as well as ongoing training once they are engaged in such representation. The Attorney Academy will conduct its first session in October 2005, a collaboration between the JCIP, the Juvenile Rights Project, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
    Funding Issues

    Juvenile Oregon Judicial Information System (OJIN)

    The Oregon Court System is a state-funded, unified statewide system that is run in a somewhat decentralized manner with considerable local autonomy. The Office of the State Court Administrator (OSCA) has an IT Department (ITD) that has developed and supports OJIN, the Oregon Judicial Information Network. OJIN is a statewide case management information system (CMS) that has been implemented in every local state court in Oregon since the mid-1980s. OJIN is used for every general and limited jurisdiction case type. When OJIN was first implemented, juvenile case management was performed using the civil functions. It was not until 2000 that juvenile OJIN (J-OJIN) was developed for the expanded needs of juvenile cases, including delinquency and dependency-neglect cases. A component of the JCIP Reassessment was an audit of the system, comparing data entered to what is in the paper case file. A component of the JCIP Reassessment was an audit of the system, comparing data entered to what is in the paper case file. As addressed in Reassessment below, JOIN has not yet been completed and numerous recommendations were made regarding the system.

    In addition to J-OJIN, the OSCA has developed an application called JOIN, a data warehouse that gets data from OJIN and the child welfare agency's databases. JOIN was developed and maintained by the OSCA ITD primarily to support the Citizens Review Board (CRB), which holds review hearings on dependency-neglect cases. In addition to functions that support the scheduling of CRB reviews, much of the data stored in JOIN are downloaded from individual court OJIN databases and the child welfare agency's database so that JOIN is a statewide database. The combined database and enhanced data structures enable Oregon OSCA to produce better performance reports for dependency-neglect cases. A possible future project, depending on the availability of funding, is an effort to cross check with the Department of Human Services data and assess the accuracy of data in both systems.

    Oregon developed performance measures, which are being implemented statewide. For example, a program was developed that provides accurate data about time to jurisdiction (the amount of time between the date the case is filed and the date the court establishes jurisdiction through a plea or trial). A project report relating to the Judicial Department's other legislatively mandated performance measure, time to permanency hearings, has been developed.

    J-OJIN operates on a CIS network of AS/400 minicomputers located at the court sites. It is currently a dated, green-screen application programmed in COBOL. The application is being migrated to a client-server environment. Each court has its own minicomputer and J-OJIN creates a separate database for each court. The OJIN software is DB2 400, an IBM hierarchical database management system product optimized for the AS/400, which is also manufactured by IBM. The OSCA ITD provides all equipment, communications, training, development, maintenance and support services to local courts for OJIN from a staff that is centrally located in Salem. OSCA also produces data entry protocols and trains local court staff to enter data according to the protocols.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
    Technology: Information Sharing

    Juvenile Code Revision

    As described extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the JCIP continues to work with the Oregon Law Commission as Oregon's Juvenile Code is updated. The first goal is to eliminate archaic language and clear up ambiguities. The second major update goal is to complete the work begun in 1991 when the statutes commonly called 'The Code' were a single chapter, combining statutes pertaining to dependency and delinquency. In that year, a work group began the task of dividing this single chapter into three: one on dependency, one on delinquency, and one containing 'administrative' provisions relevant to both. The JCIP is leading the effort to update the statutes that govern child abuse and neglect, as well as delinquency cases. A portion of the job was completed during the 2003 legislative session. In the current legislative session, bills have been introduced to address guardians ad litem for parents, putative fathers, and record keeping to ensure effective appellate review.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Reassessment

    The JCIP completed the state reassessment. The JCIP formed an evaluation team, consisting of court employees with expertise in juvenile courts, juvenile law, dependency mediation, and research/evaluation. The JCIP also formed a committee, the Assessment Review Committee, to work with the evaluation team.

    The evaluation team obtained data statewide from court and child welfare information systems, judges, court staff, and other stakeholders. In addition, the evaluation team conducted an in-depth study of five counties' juvenile court systems. The JCIP analyzed the data through the use of OJIN and issued the final report in 2004 [OR-04-01]. The JCIP made the following findings and recommendations:

    • Information Systems and Data Reports. Staff turnover, layoffs, and court backlogs impact the accuracy of juvenile court data. The evaluation team found that inconsistencies in both electronic and paper data systems hindered their ability to track data. Although Oregon is creating a multi-entity data system ' the Juvenile OJIN Integrated Network (JOIN) ' it is not yet completed. The reassessment report details 14 recommendations to address these deficits, including the following: 1) provide training to new court staff that addresses the core elements of data entry protocols; 2) improve data entry procedures to better track ICWA information; 3) ensure court staff follow data entry protocols; 4) prioritize completion of JOIN; and 5) print and distribute hard copies of the electronic dependency benchbook so judicial officers can refer to checklists while conducting proceedings.
    • Party and Foster Parent Presence at Court Hearings and CRB Hearings. Although parent participation in juvenile court proceedings increased since the initial assessment, the JCIP found that very few children, foster parents, or relatives come to court and Citizen Review Board (CRB) hearings. Attendance by court-appointed counsel for parents and children has increased since the initial assessment. CASA volunteers continue to be limited. The reassessment report lists 12 recommendations, including the following: 1) provide training to foster parents, the child welfare agency, and Foster Parent's Association on various aspects of increasing the involvement of foster parents in juvenile court hearings and CRB; 2) have CRB develop and implement a plan to increase party and interested person participation in CRB reviews; and 3) fund the CASA program in accordance with the CASA Planning and Advisory Committee Report of 2000.
    • Sufficiency of Juvenile Court Orders and CRB Findings and Recommendations. The JCIP found that court orders often lacked statutorily required findings for reasonable efforts and identification of permanency and concurrent plans. Courts are often not making legally sufficient findings in ICWA cases. The evaluation team found courts that did not use the model forms were more likely to produce deficient orders. The CRB documents did not consistently include written findings referring to specific reasonable efforts made by the child welfare agency. The reassessment report detailed 8 recommendations, including the following: 1) judges should use the model court forms (with specific recommendations for certain prompts); 2) the CRB should document specific reasonable efforts; and 3) the JCIP should provide judicial training on writing legally sufficient permanency hearing orders.
    • Timeliness of Juvenile Court Hearings. Oregon juvenile courts are meeting the goal of resolution of dependency petitions within 60 days of filing in 60 percent of cases. Court orders allowing continuances are not clearly documenting good cause for delays. Permanency hearings are held within 14 months of children entering care in 75 percent of cases. The reassessment report detailed the following recommendations: 1) the JCIP should help develop narrow definitions regarding good cause for continuance; 2) every court should develop a plan to increase the percentage of cases meeting jurisdictional timelines; and 3) the JCIP should advocate for and assist courts with implementing case flow management in dependency cases.
    • Quality and Depth of Dependency Proceeding. Courts using 'cattle call' scheduling were found to spend the least amount of time on juvenile proceedings. Courts cited concerns about available docket time. Most courts are spending less time conducting proceedings than recommended by national standards. In many counties, attorney presence at shelter hearings or in the early stages of the case was not expected or facilitated. The reassessment report contained 14 recommendations, including the following: 1) courts should modify docketing procedures to schedule time certain hearings; 2) attorneys should attend shelter hearings whether or not they have discovery, even if attendance is by phone; 3) the JCIP should provide education for judges, attorneys, and the child welfare agency on the importance of attendance at shelter care hearings; and 4) the JCIP should develop training regarding the development of permanent and concurrent plans, and work with the child welfare agency to ensure consistency.
    • Quality of Representation. The reassessment team found concern about the inconsistent quality of court appointed counsel for parents and children. Juvenile court participants reported little contact between attorneys for children and their clients. Child welfare caseworkers were rarely represented in juvenile dependency proceedings. The reassessment report described 11 recommendations, including the following: 1) attorneys should contact clients within 72 hours of appointment; 2) judges and the CRB should inquire about attorney contact with clients; 3) local agreements need to be developed for the situation where the district attorney position conflicts with the child welfare agency's position so the agency can obtain Attorney General (AG) representation; and 4) the child welfare agency should continue to seek funding for AG representation in dependency proceedings.
    • Mediation and Settlement. The JCIP funded successful mediation pilot projects. A high number of agreements were reached and attorneys reported that it reduced the amount of time spent on cases. 'However, no county participating in the dependency mediation pilot project uses mediation as it was originally conceptualized ' as part of a continuum of alternative dispute resolution options that included family decision meetings.' JCIP funding is expected to end in June 2005. The following recommendations were included in the reassessment report: 1) the JCIP and child welfare agency should establish a workgroup to examine the relationship between agency and court-connected alternative dispute resolution and develop guidelines for use of each; 2) alternative funding should be developed for the dependency mediation program; 3) judges should carefully review terms of agreements and make sure all parties consent; and 4) the JCIP should encourage development of settlement or mediation programs in all juvenile courts.
    • Appeals of Dependency and Termination Proceedings. Oregon's expedited appellate timeframes for termination appeals are longer than the national best practice standards. Expedited timeframes for dependency appeals are voluntary and seldom used. The reassessment report made five recommendations, including the following: 1) Oregon Rules of Appellate Procedures should be revised to conform to national standards for appellate timelines; 2) the JCIP and the Court of Appeals should convene a workgroup to develop strategies to expedite termination appeals; and 3) the Oregon Rules of Appellate Procedures should be revised to make the expedited timeframes for dependency appeals mandatory.

    The JCIP is in the initial stages of implementing a Model Court initiative that will bring local court teams together to implement recommended reforms. The teams will hold planning meetings in their local courts and reconvene in one year to gauge change and make modifications.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Oregon participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in 2002. The JCIP participated in the review. JCIP staff was involved in the preparation for the actual file review as well as in the process for developing the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). During the development of the PIP, court personnel and judges served on many committees focusing on various topics, such as permanency and termination of parental rights. Some of their recommendations were incorporated into the final PIP. A joint task force on adoption was sponsored by the DHS and the courts' Citizen Review Board program. The task force developed extensive recommendations on adoption, some of which the agency included when drafting the initial PIP.

    Since the PIP was approved, the state courts and agency have worked together to address issues involved in the plan. The JCIP has included performance measures in its Strategic Plan to measure progress in time to jurisdiction and permanency hearing issues, two of the measures of the PIP.

    A subcommittee of the Child Welfare Advisory Committee was formed to report regularly on PIP progress and involve stakeholders in ongoing discussions. The JCIP is represented on that subcommittee.
    Child and Family Services Review

    Funding Issues

    Oregon has gained national notoriety for the acute nature of its funding crisis over the past three years. The Legislature is currently considering a 9 percent budget cut for the court system.
    Funding Issues




    Pennsylvania


    To Table of Contents

    Expansion of Court Improvement Efforts

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Pennsylvania Court Improvement Project focused on 10,000 cases in Philadelphia's Dependency Court from 1997 until 2003. A major development in 2003 was the planned expansion of the CIP across Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's Program Improvement Plan (PIP) addresses the expansion of CIP activities to the larger county court systems, i.e., 15 second and third class counties that collectively have 40 percent of the dependency cases in Pennsylvania. These 15 counties, combined with the caseload of the Philadelphia Dependency Court, have 80 percent of the state dependency cases. The Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) now oversees the grant application process and administration of the CIP. The AOPC assigned an administrator to be the state CIP Director, appointed the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) to conduct the reassessment, and participated in state CIP training and planning sessions.

    At the present time, Pennsylvania is in the process of developing and implementing a statewide CIP Strategic Plan. The CIP submitted a revised Strategic Plan to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in June 2005. The Plan primarily addresses administrative issues regarding the court's assumption of the grant such as who will manage the grant, etc. It also discusses the creation of a state Advisory Board that will be comprised of key stakeholders throughout the Commonwealth who will determine the statewide priorities and goals in conjunction with the results of the CFSR and the reassessment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the ACF are in ongoing discussions regarding specific programs that will become the focus of Pennsylvania's plan.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Implementation and Review Teams

    Technology

    Each county/judicial district is currently responsible for its own juvenile IT system, although only a few Dependency Courts are actually served by automated programs. In November 2004, at the annual CIP conference, the Pew Commission recommendations (which can be found at http://pewfostercare.org/research/docs/FinalReport.pdf) were reviewed with members of the Commission and its staff. A panel with expertise in Dependency Court automation also presented.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection

    Barriers to Permanency Project

    The Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth, and Families is funding the American Bar Association's Barriers to Permanency Project in 14 counties. The Office of Children, Youth, and Families has shared the findings and recommendations of the Project with the CIP to promote coordinated court improvement strategies, particularly in those counties involved in both the NCJJ reassessment and the ABA Project.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Philadelphia Dependency Court

    In October 2004, the Philadelphia Dependency Court initiated time certain/block scheduling to facilitate a more efficient operation. Dependency cases are divided among four time blocks, staggered throughout the day. The first year is a period of adjustment, although the consensus to date is that it is better to have the block scheduling. As each court day progresses, however, it becomes more difficult to stay within the 15-minute assigned time block. Attorneys and social workers are expected to commit to only one courtroom during each time block, to assure their availability and reduce the number of continuances due to the failure to appear.

    The Permanency Subcommittee is helping individual judges identify cases in need of permanency planning. During 2004, the Subcommittee developed forms and a process for pretrials in contested termination of parental rights cases. During 2005, the Subcommittee is reviewing all statistical reports generated from the automated case management system. The goal of this review is to reduce the number of reports and make them more accurate and user friendly.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Scheduling
    Treatment of Parties: Case Management and Planning

    Accelerated Adoption Review Court

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Philadelphia Dependency Court established the Accelerated Adoption Review Court (AARC) to finalize adoptions. During the last fiscal year, Philadelphia finalized 622 adoptions, 147 more than the prior year. Of the 622 adoptions, 413 were agency adoptions. In addition to the increase in adoptions, more comprehensive services were provided. The social workers assigned were specifically trained for adoption work and carried smaller caseloads to allow for more time per case.

    To commemorate National Adoption Month in November 2004, two celebrations were conducted: one in Philadelphia and one in Harrisburg. Adoptions were finalized publicly on each of the two days.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    New/Innovative Projects

    The Alternative Planned Permanency Living Arrangement/Kinship Care (APPLA/KC) Court

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Alternative Planned Permanency Living Arrangement/Kinship Care (APPLA/KC) Court is another specialized court designed to finalize permanency placements for children committed to the child welfare agency for over 12 months. Children who cannot be reunified with their parents, are not living with a relative, and do not have a goal of adoption can be referred to the APPLA docket. Children who are living with a relative and cannot be reunified with their parents can also be referred to the KC docket. The term relatives is defined broadly and can include godparents, non-blood relatives, friends, and neighbors.

    The APPLA docket is handled in the 'O Court.' The O Court Subcommittee works towards accomplishing three goals: 1) creating a nurturing environment for the young adult; 2) engaging the young person in planning for their future; and 3) assuring that a discharge plan is in place by the time of discharge. The waiting room contains age-appropriate brochures and literature. A social worker from the Achieving Independence Center (AIC) is there on a daily basis to explain the program to those who appear for hearings. AIC utilizes the programs and services of many Philadelphia-based groups to provide support and tools to youth, and also has a video that is played in the waiting room.

    At the present time, the Subcommittee is drafting a protocol to be used for preparing children for their appearances in court and to help them assist in their own cases. The draft protocol addresses the questions asked for all youth regardless of their age or physical or mental capacity, specific issues pertaining to youth ages 16 and 17, specific issues pertaining to youth ages 18 - 21 who will be discharged within one year, discharge planning, and serious disabilities and special needs. It is currently being reviewed by Philadelphia's Department of Human Services Law and Policy Group.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    New/Innovative Projects

    Court Staffing

    As noted in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CIP provides funding for the Dependency Case Flow Coordinator, Conference Coordinator, Dependency Case Manager, and Supervisor of the Legal Liaison Unit, all located in the Philadelphia Dependency Court. The CIP is providing funding for these positions until September 2005.

    The Dependency Case Flow Coordinator and Conference Coordinator are part of the Court Listings Unit, which monitors individual judicial caseloads and case flow. They are currently managing the time certain/block scheduling, detailed above in Philadelphia Dependency Court, allowing for a distribution of cases that has significantly reduced judicial caseloads.

    The Dependency Case Manager is an attorney who presides over pretrial conferences and case management conferences. Pretrial conferences are held approximately 90 days before contested termination of parental rights hearings to ensure that judicial orders are being followed, witnesses are prepared, and the case is ready to move ahead. Case management conferences are scheduled for all cases in which a child with a goal of reunification has been in placement for 36 months or more. The purpose of the conference is to determine whether reunification is still feasible and, if not, to change the goal and proceed accordingly.

    The Supervisor of the Legal Liaison Unit handles vouchers and payments to private attorneys who are appointed in dependency cases.
    Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

    Reassessment

    In early 2004, the CIP arranged for the NCJJ to conduct its reassessment. The NCJJ conducted the initial assessment in 1997 - 1998 and has assisted with evaluations of several Philadelphia CIP projects. The reassessment includes onsite assessments of dependency court operations in the following counties: Lehigh, Berks, Northampton, Lackawanna, Delaware, Erie, Allegheny, and Philadelphia. Each county will receive an individual report with recommendations.

    The NCJJ surveyed over 1,000 Dependency Court stakeholders during March 2005. The NCJJ will also examine legislative and rules changes affecting Dependency Courts and make statewide recommendations. The overall reassessment will be completed by the end of July 2005. The recommendations will be shared with the Advisory Board and will be vital to help outline statewide priorities and projects.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    The CIP Director worked with the state Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Committee from 2000 - 2003. This work included preparation for the onsite study and visit during the summer of 2002, development of state responses to the CFSR report, and development and implementation of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The Children's Bureau accepted the PIP in May 2003. The CIP leaders continue to meet with the PIP Steering Committee approximately every two to three months. The main role of the CIP in the PIP implementation has been to address the court-related problems identified in the CFSR study through training and technical assistance.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Puerto Rico


    To Table of Contents

    Improving Legal Representation for Parties

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, preliminary findings in Puerto Rico indicated a lack of legal representation for children and parents, resulting in court delays. The Court Improvement Project (CIP) previously developed a list of available pro bono and legal aid services, including the Legal Services Corporation and the Legal Assistance Clinics at the University of Puerto Rico and the Interamerican University, which were distributed to judges.

    In March 2003, the CIP established a Pilot Project in the San Juan area for parents without legal representation. Most recently, the Project hired a full-time attorney through a contract with the Legal Services Corporation. Through this position, parents are receiving adequate representation. As of June 2005, the full-time attorney had 18 active cases.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Pilot Projects

    Court Staffing

    Over the past year, the CIP has continued to provide funds for a Case Manager and a Court Auxiliary Clerk in the San Juan Pilot Project. The Case Manager works with parents to inform them of their rights and duties, and provides referrals for legal services. As of June 2005, the Case Manager had oriented 341 parents and had 177 active cases.

    The Court Auxiliary Clerk manages court files to ensure cases are expedited through the court process and coordinates the calendars of abuse and neglect cases. The Auxiliary Clerk serves as a liaison between the Office Clerk of the Juvenile Court, the Case Manager, and the full-time parents' attorney described in Improving Legal Representation for Parties.
    Court Staffing
    Court Staffing: Case Managers, Coordinators, Mediators, and Other Court Staff

    Equipment Purchases

    Over the past year, the CIP purchased computers, a printer, a multimedia projector, and office equipment for the CIP Coordinator and the Court Auxiliary Clerk.
    Technology
    Technology: Equipment

    Technology

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Directorate of Information Systems of the Office of Court Administration designed a computerized case management system for CIP use. It is based on the Judicial Process in Maltreatment Cases Report (Form OAT 1324) and integrates legal forms electronically. This system will measure the time frames between each phase of the case to determine compliance with state and federal law. The CIP and the Department of the Family are currently meeting to determine the level of integration possible between the agency system and the CIP system before it is piloted. Puerto Rico plans to pilot the system in October 2005.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

    Case Reactivation

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Puerto Rico is reactivating certain closed cases. These cases were closed because, prior to implementation of ASFA, foster care placement under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Family was considered a final permanency plan. The Department of the Family identified 2,641 cases that needed reactivation to establish a permanency plan. Once the cases are reopened, the Department, prosecutors, and judges are working quickly to resolve the cases. To date, 131 cases have been resolved.
    Timeliness of Decisions
    Timeliness of Decisions: Other Initiatives

    Pilot Project Evaluation and Reassessment

    Puerto Rico contracted with a consulting firm to evaluate the San Juan Pilot Project, assess its accomplishments, and determine if it should be expanded. The final report is being translated into English, but some preliminary findings include the following:

    • The Pilot Project improved the legal representation of parents and the level of information provided to them. The Project attorney is a decisive factor in preventing hearing delays and accelerating the judicial process.
    • When oriented by the Case Manager, more parents retain custody of their children and fewer children are placed in foster care.
    • One judge resolved 90.1 percent of the cases.
    • In 66 percent of cases, only the mother was involved. The father is absent or is considered secondary.
    • Forty-nine percent of cases ended in reunification, 29 percent with relative custody, and 21 percent with legal custody by the Department of the Family.
    • Fifty-one percent of cases involved drug abuse and 25 percent involved domestic violence.
    • The length of time from the emergency petition to the closing of the case averaged 6.7 months or 201 days.
    • The Department of the Family needs to improve the provision of services, as well as the coordination and communication between attorneys and social workers.

    The CIP plans to discuss these findings in its Advisory Board meetings to establish action plans. The CIP hopes to expand the San Juan Pilot Project to other regions.

    Puerto Rico approved a Request for Proposals for its reassessment and expects to hire a contractor to perform the reassessment during the summer of 2005.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Puerto Rico's Child and Family Services Review took place in March 2003. The CIP Coordinator was actively involved in the preparation of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) and will collaborate in the following areas with the child welfare agency:

    • Strengthen policies and supervisory processes on permanency planning and goal setting in areas such as permanency hearings, termination of parental rights (TPR), deadlines for summaries of cases, court reviews of cases, parameters of permanency plans, and administrative implementation of the 2003 Comprehensive Child Well-Being and Protection Act.
    • Child welfare agency attorneys will monitor legal actions to ensure compliance with deadlines through the court's computerized system and will establish a specialized appeals unit.
    • Obtain the court's assistance with requesting that parents provide a complete list of family relatives, including addresses.
    • Child welfare agency attorneys will inform the court through an Informative Motion, in a timely manner, about the efforts to find the absent parent(s), to address the child's permanency plan, and to address other situations relevant to the safety, permanency, and well being of the child.
    • Child welfare agency attorneys will appeal judicial determinations to extend reasonable efforts beyond 12 months when the Child Protection Unit has determined that those efforts are no longer appropriate or are against the best interest of the child.
    • Provide training for judges, attorneys, and direct service personnel on the TPR process, permanency plans, and time frames.
    • Review all cases with concurrent plans including adoption goals, with special emphasis on compliance with national standards.
    • Develop a policy regarding the use of long-term foster care as a permanency goal. This goal will only be allowed with court approval and after all other goals are deemed inappropriate for the child.
    • Reopen court cases to complete permanency planning and, in applicable cases, termination of parental rights.
    • Provide a process for foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, and relative caregivers to be notified and heard in any review or review hearing held with respect to their child.
    • Provide a process for TPR proceedings to comply with federal and Puerto Rican law.

    The CIP will collaborate with the Department of the Family to visit all judicial regions and discuss the PIP, case reactivation, the Court Improvement Project, compliance with state and federal requirements, and the agency's internal procedures with Juvenile, Family, and Municipal judges.
    Child and Family Services Review




    South Carolina


    To Table of Contents

    Technological Initiatives

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Project Committee decided to focus on improving technology in the Family Court. Through technology, the Court Improvement Project (CIP) is streamlining, expediting, and monitoring case activity in compliance with mandatory guidelines, as well as encouraging timeliness and permanency for children in care. 'Nature of Action' codes have been developed that allow the CIP to count the number of child welfare cases. All courts will be required to use these codes starting July 1, 2005. In addition, the CIP is working on the development of status indicators that will allow courts to determine the stage of the case, e.g., merits hearing pending, permanency planning stage, etc. This effort is part of the larger ongoing Judicial Automation Project, South Carolina's statewide effort to provide technology for all courts in the state. More information about the Judicial Automation Project can be found at www.sccourts.org/judauto/index.cfm. Court improvement funds have been used to provide technology infrastructure including laptops, network printers and reliable, high-speed networking and internet circuits to enable improved research and email capabilities for the Judges, Clerks of Court, Court Administration, attorneys, and other governmental entities involved in Family Court matters. In past years, Family Court court reporters have received training and software for real-time reporting and 13 laptops were procured for Family Court judges in seven counties. The CIP used funds from the 2003 ' 2005 grant cycle for these initiatives. A statewide website provides judges and the public with access to opinions, calendars, rules, forms, and directives, as well as a link to the website for each County Clerk of Court in South Carolina. The main website for the SCJD can be found at http://www.sccourts.org.
    Technology
    Technology: Computer Equipment
    Technology: Internet Development
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Other Training

    Case Tracking System

    As part of a state initiative separate from the CIP, South Carolina is currently considering the development of a case tracking system for the Family Court, to include information on actual workload, monitor deadlines for filing and scheduling hearings, track compliance with case plans and court orders, collect data, employ case tracking and management, generate docketing programs, provide notice, create orders, and serve as an information source for judges. As addressed in Technological Initiatives above, the CIP is implementing a separate designation for all child abuse and neglect cases through the use of Nature of Action codes to allow for counting cases as they are filed and closed.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems Technological Initiatives

    Reassessment

    South Carolina is undertaking the initial phases of its reassessment. Court administration, with assistance from the child welfare agency, is conducting the reassessment. South Carolina is currently obtaining data from 2003 and 2004 concerning the timeliness of merits, permanency planning, and termination of parental rights hearings. The reassessment is expected to be complete during the summer of 2005.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    South Carolina participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in June 2003. The Director of the Court Improvement Project served as a liaison to the child welfare agency, assisted with preparations for the CFSR, and participated in the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). There are quarterly joint meetings between court administration and the child welfare agency to discuss the status of the CIP Strategic Plan and PIP implementation. The CIP funded a training video for Family Court judges, which is also being used by the child welfare agency to train attorneys, GALs, and caseworkers. The court administration and the child welfare agency continue to collaborate to achieve the goals of the PIP. Child and Family Services Review
    Child and Family Services Review




    South Dakota


    To Table of Contents

    CASA Expansion

    Court improvement funds continue to be used to develop and expand local CASA programs in South Dakota. South Dakota currently has eight organized CASA programs. Every CASA Program continues to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to assist the court in protecting the best interests of abused and neglected children. In the past, at least half of the court improvement grant funding in South Dakota has been distributed to CASA Programs.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

    Legislation

    The South Dakota Legislature recently passed HB 1247, which created the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Commission. The Commission consists of five members, three appointed by the Governor and two by the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court. The purpose of the CASA Commission is to award funds to local CASA Programs recognized by the National CASA Association. Funding for this new program comes from a $2.00 surcharge added to the liquidated costs section of SDCL 23-3-53. This statute provides for court costs assessed on each criminal filing. These funds may be awarded to support the development, growth, and continuation of CASA Programs in South Dakota. The funds are collected and administered for the CASA Commission by the South Dakota Unified Judicial System.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Child and Family Services Review

    South Dakota participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in September 2001.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Tennessee


    To Table of Contents

    http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/geninfo/programs/CourtImprovement/CourtImprovement.htm

    Child Dependency and Termination Appeals

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Tennessee Court Improvement Project (CIP) participated on a committee to study the feasibility of expediting appeals in child dependency and termination of parental rights cases. As a result, Tennessee adopted a new Rule of Appellate Procedure, effective July 1, 2004, that establishes special procedures and shortened time frames for termination of parental rights cases. For example, this rule requires the transcript be filed within 45 days after the notice of appeal is filed and sets forth an expedited briefing schedule. Extensions of time will be granted 'only upon a particularized showing of good cause.'

    Although sufficient time has not elapsed to do a formal assessment of the new rule, statistics from July, August, and September 2004 are available. Seventeen appeals were filed in this three-month period. Nine were completed in an average of approximately six months. Of the remaining eight cases, all but one (which was dismissed) is awaiting the appellate court's decision.
    Timeliness of Decisions
    Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIP obtained a Byrne grant to develop a mediation pilot project for child dependency and termination of parental rights cases in Knox County. The grant is being used to compensate the administrator, compensate the mediators, and provide an assessment of the project. Byrne grant funds will be expended by June 2005; the program will end unless additional funding is secured. To date, Knox County has mediated a total of 65 child dependency cases, with 35 reaching agreements. The Court Improvement Project and the program administrator will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the program upon its completion.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Conference Addressing Methamphetamine

    The CIP serves on a committee that plans a statewide multidisciplinary conference addressing methamphetamine and the implications of its use. The committee consists of representatives of the child welfare agency, Office of the U.S. Attorney, the Tennessee National Guard, the University of Tennessee School of Social Work, sheriffs, and health care professionals. The first conference, held in December 2003, was described in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. A second conference, Methamphetamine Response: A Multi-Discipline Approach, was held in March 2005. Approximately 700 people attended. The conference was intended to provide a knowledge base for agencies to build strong collaborations to take back the community. Workshops included developing a multidisciplinary protocol for the protection of children; physician's approach to decontamination, evaluation, and follow-up; developmental and psychosocial evaluation of meth children; law enforcement involvement with drug endangered children; National Drug-Endangered Children (DEC) Alliance; impact of meth on users and families; successful investigations of meth labs; uniqueness of methamphetamine prosecutions; chemical exposures associated with meth labs; and medical research priorities on methamphetamine. Since the 2003 conference, a number of communities have developed multidisciplinary models to address the issues of methamphetamine, particularly as it affects children.
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
    Community Collaboration

    Technology and Data Collection

    Effective April 1, 2005, the Tennessee Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges (Council) appointed the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) as the director of the Council. Historically, the Council has had a director and staff independent of the AOC. The AOC will now provide staffing for the Council, including technological support.

    With its new responsibility for technology in the juvenile courts, the AOC is researching current juvenile data collection business practices and gathering information to define current business processes and document work flow. The AOC will develop a system that incorporates the legacy system Juvenile Information Form and makes it easier for the juvenile courts to gather and transmit accurate data. Performance measurement standards will be developed once the system parameters are in place and measurable.

    To date, each county developed their own method of collecting data based on a Juvenile Court Information Systems Data form, which was revised in 1998, and the Juvenile Information Form. Sixty-one of the 98 juvenile courts use this form and system to collect, collate, and transmit statistical data to the Council. The remaining counties have either developed their own data collection software or transmit the data using other methods.

    Currently, only a small amount of data related specifically to dependency cases is collected and this data is inconsistent at best. The Department of Children's Services (DCS) is tasked with gathering more complete information regarding dependency. In the new juvenile data collection system, the AOC plans to either collect more of this data or work with DCS to access their database.
    Technology
    Technology: Case Management Systems
    Technology: Data Collection

    Training Opportunities and Materials

    The Tennessee CIP provided numerous training opportunities and materials during 2004. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice E. Riley Anderson addressed the 2004 Tennessee Youth Action Conference. He spoke about his years in foster care as a young child and his experience growing up with foster children in his mother's home. He also discussed the responsibility of the courts in monitoring children in foster care and the role of the guardian ad litem. His speech was reprinted in the Tennessee Bar Association's The Tennessee Volunteer Attorney.

    The CIP participated in the development and production of the statewide, multidisciplinary CPS conference, Connecting for Children's Justice: A Symposium on Child Maltreatment in November 2004. Approximately 450 people attended, including DCS caseworkers, judges, attorneys, medical staff, and mental health professionals. The Conference provided information and education on child maltreatment for professionals in their specified areas of expertise and offered opportunities for training across disciplines.

    The CIP sponsored a day-long training at the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference in September 2004. Dr. Raymond Crowell, Vice President for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, National Mental Health Association provided a program on mental health issues affecting children and families in the child welfare and juvenile justice system. The program was attended by juvenile court judges and staff, agency attorneys, and private attorneys practicing in juvenile court.

    The CIP funded a project of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services to translate the Tennhelp website into Spanish. The Tennhelp site, www.tennhelp.com, provides information about community resources throughout Tennessee.

    During 2004, the Tennessee Court Improvement Project produced fourth editions of the following manuals:

    • Advocacy in Child Dependency and Termination of Parental Rights Cases [TN-04-01] for attorneys who represent parents, guardians ad litem, and agency attorneys. The Court Improvement Project provided copies of this manual free of charge to all agency attorneys and paralegals.
    • Child Dependency Benchbook [TN-04-02] for judges.

    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs
    Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks

    Reassessment

    In 2003, the CIP hired a reassessment manager with a Ph.D. in evaluation and research to conduct the reassessment and draft the final report. The manager and CIP staff developed an evaluation plan that uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to collect in-depth information on court practices related to dependency, unruly, and delinquency proceedings in five counties in the state, as well as statewide information across most major stakeholder groups in the court system.

    The original evaluation plan included in-depth case studies in five counties, which included judicial case file reviews, court observations, document review, and interviews or focus groups with key stakeholder groups. Judicial case file reviews have been conducted in the five counties. Due to time constraints, court observations, document review and interviews or focus groups were completed in only three of the five counties.

    The judicial case file reviews have been conducted by random sample in the five counties based on each adjudication type: dependency, unruly, and delinquency. A standardized review instrument was used for all cases. The case file reviews were conducted by four part-time data collectors, two of whom were attorneys and two were law students. The CIP staff attorneys reviewed each completed instrument for accuracy.

    Focus groups have been conducted in three of the five counties with these stakeholder groups in child dependency, unruly, and delinquency cases: children over the age of 14, birth families, foster families, guardians ad litem (GAL), parents' attorneys, Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) members, child welfare agency case managers, supervisors and attorneys, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). The focus group interview guides contain common questions about the main topics of interest, along with questions tailored to the role of the stakeholder group being interviewed. The focus group meetings were audiotaped and extensive notes were taken. In addition, individual or small group interviews have been conducted with persons in these roles: the judicial officers (juvenile court judges and referees), juvenile court clerks, court staff, the child welfare agency regional administrator, and supervising attorney. Content analysis will be conducted on the summary notes from each group to develop the main themes and supporting evidence.

    The statewide information has been collected through a survey of key stakeholder groups across the state. These groups include judicial officers, foster youth over the age of 14, guardians ad litem, parents' attorneys, foster parents, FCRB members, and agency attorneys. The survey questionnaires contain standard sections and items, as well as questions targeted to each respondent group.

    A part-time data analyst has completed the analysis of the judicial case review instruments for the five counties. The data analyst is in the process of compiling the frequencies for each group survey. A CIP staff attorney is conducting a review of the applicable state statutes and rules in child dependency, unruly, and delinquency cases. This review includes modification of laws subsequent to the original assessment and compliance with applicable federal laws.

    In February 2005, the reassessment manager resigned. CIP staff will analyze the data from the case studies in the five counties and the statewide surveys. Staff will draft the final report and obtain input in developing an improvement plan from the remaining members of the Court Improvement Program Reassessment Committee that was formed in 2003.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Tennessee participated in the Child and Family Services Review in June 2002. During the onsite visit, federal reviewers interviewed CIP staff.

    The Court Improvement Project staff participated in an advisory meeting with other child welfare professionals to provide input into the preparation of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP), which was approved in July 2003. The child welfare agency is in the third quarter of implementation and is making progress on the goals, strategies, and action steps related to safety, permanency, and well being. The CIP has not been directly involved in PIP implementation beyond the initial planning.

    Since 2001, Tennessee has been under a federal court order in the class action lawsuit of Brian A. v. Bredesen, Civ. Act. No. 3:00-0445 (Fed. Dist. Ct., M.D. Tenn.). This lawsuit mandates improvements in the operations of the Department of Children's Services and establishes the outcomes to be achieved by the state on behalf of dependent and unruly children in custody and their families. Implementation of the PIP has been incorporated into the objectives and court order in this case.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Texas


    To Table of Contents

    www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/About_Child_Protective_Services/court.asp

    Cluster Courts

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Texas Court Improvement Project (CIP), which is administered along with the Children's Justice Act (CJA), instituted cluster courts to improve practices in rural areas of the state. The courts handle child protection cases exclusively and utilize traveling judges that hear cases in a cluster of counties.

    There are a total of 15 cluster courts across Texas, now operating with state funds. During the most recent legislative session, the cluster courts received full state general revenue funding for the coming biennium. In July 2005, most cluster court judges will attend the statewide Associate Judge training in Austin and all cluster court judges will meet with the Office of Court Administration during that week of training. At the present time, the Texas CIP/CJA continues to provide equipment and supplies to the cluster courts that the state does not provide, such as funding for judges to attend training, approximately 20 hours of direct training to judges, pagers, and cell phones.

    The Department of Health and Human Services has decided to evaluate the Texas cluster courts as part of its National Evaluation of the Court Improvement Program. This five-year study is being conducted by the Planning and Learning Technologies (Pal-Tech, Inc.), the Urban Institute, and the Center for Policy Research.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Judicial Training
    Technology
    Technology: Equipment
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Cluster Prosecutor Pilot Project

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Texas CIP/CJA established a 'Cluster Prosecutor' pilot project. This project provided an attorney, deputized by the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, dedicated to civil prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases in one of the cluster courts. Over the past year, an additional prosecutor was added to the program. An informal survey indicated a high degree of satisfaction in the project from county officials, parents' and children's attorneys, CASA, agency staff, and the judge. Discussions are underway within the agency and the CIP Task Force concerning plans for expansion of the project into other cluster courts. Issues under consideration include permanent funding for the project and identification of areas with the greatest need.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

    CASA Expansion

    The Texas CIP/CJA continues to provide seed money for the expansion of local Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs into cluster court areas. The CASA network currently serves 185 of Texas' 254 counties and approximately half of the abused children eligible for CASA advocacy. Most of the remaining counties are primarily rural with low child populations and a rather small number of children in the custody of the child welfare agency. During 2005, CASA expects to add an additional 10 counties, with a goal of adding 10 more in 2006.

    In addition, the CIP/CJA is providing CASA with funds for technology costs to improve
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

    Mediation Projects

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CIP recommended the establishment of child protection mediation programs. The CJA was funding mediation projects in three-year cycles. As of 2005, all of the mediation programs are being run with independent funding.

    The University of Texas Center for Public Policy and Dispute Resolution is conducting an evaluation. The final report is near completion and should be available by the end of 2005.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Family Group Conferencing Projects

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CJA funded three ongoing family group conferencing projects, which utilize trained family group conference facilitators. All three projects were successful and have now cycled off CJA funding. Due to this success, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services started other family group conferencing programs in locations throughout Texas.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Substance Abuse Technical Assistance Grant

    Texas courts, with the assistance of the CIP, child welfare agency, and substance abuse treatment agency, are participating in a two-year technical assistance grant from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare to create and strengthen linkages between the three entities.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Technology Initiatives

    The Texas Office of Court Administration rolled out a data collection and reporting system, which will be presented at the Child Welfare Data Conference.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Management and Tracking Systems

    Legislation

    During the 2005 session, the Texas Legislature passed a comprehensive child welfare bill. It impacts the child welfare agency, the courts, and the delivery of social services across the state. The complete text of the legislation, Senate Bill 6, can be found at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlo/billsrch/criteria.htm. Some of the major provisions of this legislation include the following:

    • Outreach Programs. Requires the Texas Educational Agency and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop outreach programs to ensure that high school students in foster or residential care are aware they are exempt from payment of college tuition and fees as provided in the legislation.
    • Attorney Training. With some exceptions, requires attorneys ad litem to participate in three hours of continuing legal education per year.
    • Information Exchange. Allows the Department of Social Services to enter into agreements with other states to allow for the exchange of reports of child abuse and neglect in other states' central registry systems.
    • Requirements for Caseworkers. Specifies certain documentation and management requirements for caseworkers.
    • Information to Parents and Caregivers. Requires the child welfare agency to develop informational manuals for parents and caregivers.
    • Notice of Change in Placement. Requires the child welfare agency to provide at least 48 hours prior notice of a change in the child's residential care provider.
    • Cultural Competency. Requires the child welfare agency to develop and deliver cultural competency training.
    • Relative Placement Program. Provides for the establishment of a relative and other caregiver placement program.
    • Family Drug Courts. Allows for the establishment of a Family Drug Court Program.
    • Paperless Information Exchange. Requires the child welfare agency to develop and implement a pilot program to allow for the paperless exchange of information between the Department of Social Services and the courts.
    • Parental Advisory Committee. Provides for the establishment of a Parental Advisory Committee.

    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Reassessment

    Due to the current overall consolidation, reorganization, and reform of Child Protective Services and all health and human service agencies in Texas, and the move of CIP and CJA from the Department of Family and Protective Services to the Texas Center for the Judiciary, the reassessment is on hold. The voice of the courts has been sought through input from CIP throughout the process. The reassessment will resume during the fall of 2005.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Texas participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in February 2002. The CIP assisted with the onsite review and case reviews. The CIP Task Force was given an opportunity to participate in and comment on the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The PIP was approved in early May 2003, with the CIP Task Force designated to lead on four action steps contained in three strategies. Specific responsibilities include implementation of prosecutor and attorney ad litem training, expansion of mediation and family group conferencing, and preparation of a position paper. The CIP receives regular updates from the Department of Family and Protective Services on the ongoing progress of PIP implementation.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Utah


    To Table of Contents

    Therapeutic Justice Model Court

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Utah Court Improvement Project (CIP) is implementing a Therapeutic Justice Model Court in one courtroom. The general therapeutic justice principles of intensive front loading, early evaluation and referral for services, and frequent review and judicial oversight for problem solving and accountability have been applied to all child protection cases involving the removal of children from the parents' custody in this courtroom. More details about the operation of the Therapeutic Justice Model Court are contained in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004.

    The CIP is currently evaluating permanency outcomes for the cases that have been handled to conduct an assessment of the Therapeutic Justice Model Court. An assessment will compare outcomes between two traditional courts, two drug courts, and the Model Court. After an initial delay due to the Institutional Review Process (the federally mandated protocols that must be followed by all agencies/institutions performing human subject research), the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges has made several site visits to gather data. The evaluation is scheduled to be completed by September 30, 2005.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Office of Child Welfare Parental Defense

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, Utah passed legislation to create the Office of Child Welfare Parental Defense. The duties, functions, and responsibilities of the Office include the following: 1) develop and enter into contracts with attorneys authorized to practice law in the state as independent contractors to serve as parental defense attorneys; 2) provide assistance and advice to contracted parental defense attorneys; 3) develop and provide educational and training programs for contracted parental defense attorneys; and 4) provide information and advice to assist contracted parental defense attorneys comply with their professional, contractual, and ethical duties.

    The Office of Child Welfare Parental Defense began operation in July 2004. During its first six months, the Office launched a comprehensive website, www.parentaldefense.utah.gov, and completed a thorough assessment of the needs of defense counsel. A two-day training conference was held in May 2005. Contacts were also made with most of the county officials responsible for contracting with defense counsel. At the end of December 2004, the Office's Director left the position and, in the subsequent legislative session, funding was cut in half. The Utah Legislature chose to place the emphasis of the Office on training parental defenders under a contractual arrangement, rather than employing a new director. The CIP and the courts are involved in shaping a Request for Proposals for this training.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

    Expediting Appeals

    In 2004, Utah implemented legislation to expedite appeals. This legislation is discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004. Highlights of the legislation include the following:
    • Reduces the time for filing a notice of appeal to 15 days.

    • Requires the court to notify the parties in open court of the requirements regarding filing an appeal.

    • Requires the petition on appeal be filed within 15 days of the notice.

    • Requires that trial counsel prepare and file both the notice of appeal and the petition.

    • Provides that both the petition on appeal and the trial record to the appellate court be filed within 30 days of the final order on appeal.

    • Extensions of time are not favored and are limited to 10 days beyond the prescribed time period.

    The petition on appeal is designed to raise issues rather than argue them. The pleading is formatted to assist even inexperienced counsel in directing the appellate court to the portion of the record where the alleged errors occurred. The appellate court may examine the petition and record at the earliest opportunity to determine if the issues may be resolved immediately or whether they require full briefing. With or without briefing, the appellate court may resolve the appeal by simple order, memorandum decision, or opinion.

    A committee comprised of CIP members and non-CIP members, including appellate clerks and attorneys from the Attorney General's Office, continues to meet to address implementation of the legislation. A committee member recently reported to the Juvenile Court judges. Generally, this report indicated that appeal time has been cut in half, staff is cooperative in getting the record to the court, and judges need to ensure that attorneys are aware of the new 15-day period within which to file an appeal. Discussion continues on how to refine the new process. Generally, the legislation has been very successful. As of May 2005, 75 percent of child welfare appeals are being resolved in approximately 90 days.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
    Timeliness of Decisions
    Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals

    Court Agency Records Exchange (CARE)

    Utah continues to upgrade its centralized data collection system to permit cross communication and data sharing between the court and the child welfare agency. As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Court Agency Records Exchange (CARE) was developed as the result of numerous interviews by the CIP with other states and local court participants to determine the necessary system components. The system is Internet based, and consists of numerous modules that are being brought online one at a time. As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the system was piloted in two urban and two rural sites, starting with the minutes module. The minutes module was implemented statewide in January 2004. Other modules include an accounting module, a case history module, and a court calendaring module. All modules should be released by November 2005; a lack of funding prevented Utah from continuing to use contractual programmers that were on schedule for a September 2005 complete "roll out" date.

    Utah enters performance data into a report called the Time Standards Report [UT-05-01] that tracks certain ASFA time elements (required by the state legislature for a report each September). Local juvenile courts in all eight districts around the state manually enter data from which the Time Standards Report can be run. After the CARE system is fully implemented, the data will be retrievable from CARE without separate data entry at the local level. Other performance measures are available to the court upon request from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services system called SAFE. Examples of these performance measures are the number of children in care at any point in time; numbers and percentage of children exiting care by specific reason (adoption, reunification, etc.); number of maltreatment reports; number of reports that were substantiated and number that resulted in removal; and percentage of children who reentered care after returning home or being placed with kin, etc.

    Regarding data exchanges, Utah law allows clerks to have access to the child welfare agency database when handling protective orders on a "read-only" basis. This data exchange is of a limited scope that generally allows a clerk to see whether a referral has already been made to the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) (required in protective order statute), the status of the referral (i.e., is the investigation pending or complete), whether DCFS has an ongoing abuse or neglect case involving the family, and whether the family has a history with DCFS.

    In addition, the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) receives standard notifications that a child has been placed in state custody, so that child support collection may begin, if appropriate. The court's system, CARE, generates notification when a child is placed in custody of DCFS or Juvenile Justice Services. ORS notifies parent(s) of custody changes and instructs them what they will owe in ongoing child support.

    In the future, however, the CARE system could allow for considerable data exchange. For example, if access is approved for stakeholders to view information they would be able to view signed orders, future hearing dates, dockets, approved minutes, findings, and orders. This access would eliminate the need for a court clerk to physically access a file and copy the requested information.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
    Technology: Information Sharing
    Technology: Internet Development

    Legislation

    During the 2005 session, the Utah Legislature passed several minor bills affecting child welfare and dependency cases. These provisions include the following:

    • HB 338, Child and Family Welfare Revisions. Requires the appointment of the GAL be made on the record in all cases, with a showing that the appointment is in the best interest of the child.

    • SB 72, Child Welfare Amendments. Requires that for services to be ordered, there must be a finding supporting the need for the services on the record. In addition, lack of compliance with the service plan and drug use are not reasons to deny parents visitation with children who are in state custody, unless such a visit would cause the child to be scared or traumatized.

    • SB 17, Foster Care Citizen Review Board. Following a CIP-commissioned study regarding Utah's periodic case review by courts and citizens, the bill allows the Foster Care Citizen Review Board to delay its periodic citizen review until the second year of care in cases where the court is already performing the six-month reviews in the courtroom.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Foster Care Citizen Review Board Study

    The CIP contracted for a study of Utah's Foster Care Citizen Review process with Voices for Utah Children, a non-profit child advocacy organization. The resulting report, entitled Utah's Foster Care Review at a Crossroads: An Evaluation of System Performance and Stakeholder Perceptions [UT-04-01] was completed in January 2004. The study examined current foster care review systems in Utah and other states, and the report provides recommendations regarding the future of periodic reviews for children in foster care. The study demonstrated in part that Utah's Juvenile Courts are performing frequent court reviews, but a lack of coordination exists between citizen reviews and the court process. As noted in Legislation, SB 17 was enacted in response to the study and alleviates the requirement that citizen reviews must be performed during the first year a child is in care when court reviews are more frequent.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms and Orders: State Legislation

    Kids and Judges Day Activities

    During the winter of 2004, the Court Improvement Project facilitated a Kids and Judges Day to allow children currently under the court's jurisdiction to visit the Juvenile Court in an informal setting. About 30 children attended along with their responsible adult. Activities included a tour of the judge's courtroom, answers to questions the children had submitted in advance, and a photo with Grizzbee, the Utah Grizzlies Hockey Team mascot. Five juvenile judges from the Third District Court (Salt Lake) participated. The Planning Committee also completed age appropriate coloring books and activity books for children regarding the functions of the Juvenile Court. The books were distributed to all juvenile judges in the state at the end of 2004.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

    Child and Family Services Review

    Utah participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in April 2003. Several court employees, judges, and one CIP staff member participated in the preparation process and the actual review. Members of CIP collaborated on the development of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) and an appellate judge assisted with the Indian Child Welfare Act portions of the PIP, including staff training.

    While the CIP does not have specific responsibilities under the PIP, implementation of the PIP was a topic of the statewide CIP summit in June 2005. Utah has a local multidisciplinary team in each of its eight court districts. The local teams are coordinated by a statewide team (the Table of 6) which also services as a steering committee for CIP. Each team is made up of representatives of the agency, agency counsel, guardian ad litem, parents' defense, one of more juvenile judges, court administration and others as determined at the local level (such as mental health or substance abuse providers). The Table of 6 determined that, through the CIP, it could coordinate the setting of new goals related to the CFSR and PIP, and provide the local district tables with the tools necessary to create implementation plans and measures of success. After establishing this structure, a CIP Subcommittee planned a statewide Summit for June 2005 to call together all local teams to address PIP issues and to outline collaborative solutions to a series of PIP goals.

    The following PIP goals were presented to the local teams during the first day of the Summit along with related performance data by district:

    PIP Goal: No more than 27 percent of children released from custody will reenter care within 12 months of release.

    PIP Goal: At least 71 percent of children in out of home care for fewer than 12 months will have no more than two placements.

    PIP Goal: A termination of parental rights petition will be filed or an exception to the requirement will be documented in the court file for at least 50 percent of children in custody for 15 of the last 22 months.

    PIP Goal: At least 70 percent of children in foster care will have an appropriate permanency goal in a timely manner.

    PIP Goal: At least 75 percent of children reunified with their family will do so within 12 months of removal.

    PIP Goal: Eighty percent of children with a permanency goal of "other planned permanent living arrangement" will have the services necessary to achieve this goal in place at the time of the review.

    PIP Goal: Placement with paternal and maternal relatives will be considered for at least 83 percent of the children in out of home care.

    PIP Goal: At least 75 percent of children under court jurisdiction will have a written case plan that has been developed jointly with the child's parents and the child.

    After the presentation of data related to PIP outcome measures, each local team engaged in a facilitated discussion of local data to establish goals for improving these outcomes and a plan of action. The Court Improvement Coordinator will continue to work with each local district team to refine their goals and strategies and assist them in measuring results. Many of the teams determined that specific additional data is necessary to assist them in this process, and the Coordinator is working to make this data available in collaboration with both court and agency data collection systems.

    In addition, the CIP selected two PIP goals on which to initially focus resources. The first issue relates to reentry to care. Specifically, results showed that Utah has a higher rate of reentry to care related to children who are placed in kinship placements. The CIP appointed a Subcommittee to obtain and review data from the Division of Child and Family Services regarding kinship placements. The Subcommittee met for the first time in May 2005. The Subcommittee will continue to meet to complete its review and analysis of available data and to consider collaborative means to reduce reentry to care from kinship placements.

    A second PIP issue of particular interest to the CIP was the failure to document compelling reasons findings when a child is in care more than 15 out of the last 22 months and termination of parental rights has not been filed. After fully exploring the issue, it was determined that training of Assistant Attorney Generals (AAGs) regarding the requirements was critical to resolving this PIP goal, since AAGs generally file the termination petitions and prepare most of the court orders. Training on this issue was completed during the AAGs annual training conference in May 2005. Guardian ad litems attended the conference and received the same training. The issue was also addressed at a separate training for all juvenile court judges held the same week.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Vermont


    To Table of Contents

    http://www.vermontjudiciary.org/Committes/ppic.htm

    Chittenden and Rutland Family Courts

    As reported extensively in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, court improvement funds supported initiatives of two Family Courts in Chittenden and Rutland Counties. Both of these courts emphasize the front loading of legal and social services to families at the time of the child's removal, and prior to adjudication or disposition. Families receive prompt service intervention and legal representation designed to resolve the family crisis and situation prior to the initial disposition of the court matter. Prompt intervention, increased use of protective supervision orders, and the provision of early legal representation have resulted in reducing the number of children coming into foster care. Both courts have a policy that a parent's agreement to participate in services early in the case cannot be subsequently used as an admission at the adjudication hearing. Legal representation of parents at the initial hearing has facilitated more meaningful and substantive hearings. The focus on these early hearings is on intervention and rehabilitation, not ascertaining guilt.

    In May 2004, the Vermont Court Improvement Committee (PPIC) decided that, after six years, Chittenden and Rutland Family Courts had outgrown the designation of 'pilot' courts. The notion of collaboration, legal representation, and early services had become standard operating procedure in both of those courts, and in other counties to some degree. Many of the precepts the pilot courts developed were incorporated in the 2002 0 - 6 Permanency Protocol: front-loading of services, representation of parents at detention hearings, and a non-adversarial approach while protecting parties' due process rights.

    The Chittenden Family Court judge remained in that court for a 4th year of judicial rotation, likely a record for any judge in Vermont. The Court continued with its Family Treatment Court project, now in its 3rd year. The University of Vermont conducted a process evaluation of the Family Treatment Court, but the report has not been released yet. Birthparent Counseling services and the Truancy Project are continuing.

    In September 2004, the Rutland Family Court had a change in judges due to judicial rotation. The stakeholders continue to meet regularly, i.e., once or twice a month. The stakeholders agreed that a second day a week was needed on the juvenile docket, but to date the court has only been able to add another half day once or twice a month. The new courthouse opened in April 2005, and will help with scheduling because more courtrooms are available. For example, if judges and attorneys are available, a termination of parental rights hearing could be held in one courtroom while routine hearings are held in another one. The courthouse will have more public space and conference rooms for attorneys to meet with clients.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    Increased Legal Representation

    As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Vermont suffers from a shortage of both GAL volunteers and parents' attorneys. Vermont's CIP has made the provision and improvement of legal representation a priority. The CIP encourages parents' attorneys to be present at the initial shelter or detention hearings. The CIP also used funds to sponsor a one-day training for juvenile attorneys and continues to underscore the importance of competent legal counsel with the Defender General's Office.

    In January 2004, the Legal Representation Committee outlined six recommendations for achieving consistent and better legal representation for parties, especially parents. These recommendations include the following:

    • Mandatory pre-service training for new contract attorneys and public defenders.
    • Raise awareness within the Governor's Office in the event the CIP needs to request additional funding to improve legal representation.
    • Educate legislators.
    • Fund mechanisms for cross-training.
    • Create full-time conflict counsel positions where those interested in working on child welfare cases are hired.
    • Use of case managers.

    The CIP encouraged the Defender General's office to explore mandatory pre-service training for new contract attorneys and public defenders during 2004. To date, however, no action has been taken on any of these recommendations, but may be an area of focus in the upcoming months.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

    Parent Counseling in TPR Cases

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Vermont Children's Aid Society provides counseling to birthparents involved in termination proceedings in Vermont's largest court. Counseling of the birthparents helps parents identify and resolve ambivalence about whether or not to voluntarily relinquish parental rights, focus on the child's needs and best interests, and participate in constructive and nonadversarial planning for the child's future. The Children's Aid Society expanded these services to six of Vermont's fourteen counties, is committed to continuing them, and is seeking other funding. The Court Improvement Project continues to provide minimal funding to support the program. There are no statistics to indicate whether the counseling has reduced the number or length of contested TPR hearings. However, the Children's Aid Society believes those TPR orders are not appealed.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    A joint ADR/CIP committee selected Franklin Family Court to pilot a CHINS mediation project. As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, matching CIP and agency funds were used to support the project in its first year.

    The mediation project has started slowly, with the first mediation in March 2004 and only six additional mediations to date. More than a year into the project, 'buy-in' from some stakeholders still remains an issue. The evaluations, which are completed by the mediators, parties, and attorneys, indicate that the process is 'not very helpful' to 'helpful' to 'very helpful.' However, mediation has increased during 2005, which indicates improvement. The CIP is considering an alternate site if the Franklin Family Court continues to show lackluster interest in the project.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    CIP Committee on Kinship Placements and Guardianships

    Under Vermont statutes, a 'permanent guardianship' closes Family Court jurisdiction over the case and is considered to be 'permanent and self sustaining.' A permanent guardianship is in contrast to guardianships ordered by the Family Court, which are not necessarily permanent. Guardians were therefore required to file a report for an annual permanency review. As discussed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, a CIP subcommittee was formed to address multiple issues arising from kinship placements and guardianships.

    As a result of the subcommittee's efforts, all children in the custody of someone other than parents or the Department, usually kin, now have an annual permanency review by the Family Court. The subcommittee drafted an Annual Permanency Review Report for legal custodians to fill out and file in advance of the annual hearing to provide information to judges regarding the youth's safety, well being, and permanency needs. Procedures were instituted for the courts to identify these cases so that annual reviews can be scheduled.

    In the summer of 2004, the subcommittee evolved into a Task Force on Minor Guardianships, whose objective is to focus on the permanency needs of children who are in probate court guardianships. In Vermont, in some jurisdictions, it is common for families to create a probate court-ordered guardianship to avoid Family Services intervention. The probate court may be unaware that there was a child protection investigation or substantiation. The group is exploring ways of getting these families and probate judges focused on the long-term permanency needs of the child, including what events will trigger the return home of the child. To this end, there was a one-day training for probate judges in April 2005. Family Court judges and GALs were invited as well. The CIP provided technical assistance through the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues: former judge Joanne Brown assisted with the planning and delivery of this training. The purpose of the training was to give judges the tools and knowledge to make informed decisions concerning kinship placement in child protection cases, as well as in cases in which child protection is not an issue. A number of changes have been discussed, including revised annual status reports for minor guardianships in probate court, better screening of proposed guardians for minors (including better cooperation with the agency licensing unit), efforts to secure court-ordered assignment of social workers in dysfunctional family cases, and better coordination with Family Courts.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Judicial Training

    Data Warehouse

    As noted in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, a comprehensive 'data warehouse' project is fully operational in all Vermont courts. The data warehouse contains 10 years of information and is available for juvenile and family cases.

    In December 2004, the CIP began making weekly Juvenile Management Reports [VT-04-01] available to all family court judges and managers. The reports show juvenile cases pending initial disposition after adjudication and cases with pending TPRs. There are also reports that show, on a monthly basis, cases pending initial disposition, new cases filed, cases reaching initial disposition, and clearance rates. These are presented in excel pivot tables, with links to case specific information (docket sheets). Court managers can see case specific information (child's and parents' names) for children in their court only. The reports are sent to the courts weekly. To date, not every juvenile docket clerk has the software license to run the reports (although all will have it by the fall of 2005) but there is at least one person in each court who can use these reports. This refinement has been a significant development for the juvenile docket that dramatically changes the way judges and court clerks view their juvenile caseload.

    In addition, the CIP developed a system whereby the state Division of Family Services provides data on children under the Department's custody which the courts will use to improve their data on custody 'status.' This data exchange allows both the courts and the Department to correct data on the spelling of the child's name, date of birth, docket number, and custody status so data can be shared and 'data dumps' combined. These reports are called the 'Custody Status Reconciliation Reports.' The CIP is in the process of automating the process so emails can be sent to the courts on a monthly basis providing them with a link to the reports.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems

    Juvenile Procedures Manual

    As addressed in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, Vermont is rewriting its Juvenile Procedures Manual. The CIP Director worked with court staff on this project. A draft hard copy was distributed to the juvenile docket clerks and it is also online for docket clerks to use with links to forms and statutes. Docket clerks received training on the new manual in March 2005, which will be updated frequently.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks

    Family Court Resource Book

    The CIP developed a Family Court Resource Book [VT-04-02] for each of the 14 Family Courts and distributed them in September 2004. The Resource Book is intended to remain in the judge's chamber so there is always one in each court. The Resource Book contains forms, a summary of new developments, caseflow charts, and a copy of the 0 - 6 Permanency Protocol.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks

    Reassessment

    The Court Improvement Project Director is conducting its reassessment internally, with the guidance of a committee and the court's Research Information Services Department. The reassessment is based on performance measures identified by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and the National Center for State Courts. Data collection is currently underway from the Data Warehouse and the agency. Measurements include such things as time to adjudication, disposition, TPR filing, and TPR decision.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Vermont participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in May 2001. Regarding the Program Improvement Plan (PIP), the CIP drafted court-related activities to reduce delays and reported on the status of the activities quarterly. These activities included the development of performance data reports, sharing the reports with the courts, and implementing a Permanency Protocol designed to reduce delays for foster care children under the age of seven. Vermont completed its PIP in July 2004.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Virginia


    To Table of Contents

    Best Practice Courts

    As described in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Virginia Court Improvement Program (CIP) began development of a new initiative entitled "Best Practice Courts." This program is designed to build on the efforts of many Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts to follow the Resource Guidelines. This initiative involves the Juvenile Court's commitment to a series of local activities as well as the provision of specialized training and technical support to these courts by the CIP. Efforts by CIP staff to support the Best Practice Courts continued throughout 2004. The 3rd Annual Best Practice Courts Conference took place on November 14-16, 2004 in Richmond with approximately 150 people in attendance. This year's conference began with a special session on Sunday evening for the purpose of introducing five new courts to the Best Practice Courts concept. The Class of 2004 first-time participants from Prince William, Stafford, Waynesboro, Williamsburg/James City, and Winchester/Frederick Counties joined returning teams from the Class of 2002 and Class of 2003. A total of twenty-four teams consisting of Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judges and clerks' office staff, representatives from local departments of social services, and attorneys who serve as agency counsel or as guardians ad litem for children attended. 'Voices of Youth: A Look at Foster Care Through the Eyes of the Child,' was a special presentation by two children formerly in foster care. These two individuals spent many years in the foster care system and shared with the audience both the positive influences and challenges involved in their life experiences. 'Bringing the children into the room' is an important key to understanding the essential work of Best Practice Courts. The Tuesday morning plenary session for all courts was 'Health and Well-Being: Infants and Toddlers in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court ' Strategies for Meeting the Needs of the Child Dependency System's Youngest Clients.' Judge Cindy S. Lederman, Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court, and Dr. Vicky Youcha, Project Director of Zero to Three, were the keynote speakers. They explored the needs of infants and toddlers in the foster care system through the use of lectures, videos, and team discussions of a hypothetical case. The speakers emphasized that early intervention can make a difference in the well being of these young children. In keeping with tradition, the conference included planning time for the local teams and closed with the Class of 2004 court teams sharing with the group their future plans and goals as new participants in the Best Practice Courts initiative. Numerous local activities of the 19 Best Practice Court Teams were supported and chronicled by the CIP staff in a Best Practice Courts Newsletter [VA-04-01] published in the summer of 2004.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Judicial Training

    Safe Families in Recovery Project

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, Virginia was one of four states awarded a National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) technical assistance grant in 2003. With this grant, Virginia has developed the Safe Families in Recovery Project (SFRP). In addition to developing an interagency Memorandum of Understanding and corresponding strategic plan, SFRP efforts also contributed to the following initiatives:

    • Virginia's Best Practice Courts/Family Treatment Drug Courts. Richmond and Charlottesville were each recently awarded $450,000 from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance to support their Family Treatment Drug Courts over the next three years. These jurisdictions have higher rates of foster care than the state average. Alexandria also has a Family Treatment Drug Court and has obtained foundation funding to support its efforts. The Department of Social Services applied for a Title IV-E waiver to provide intensive case management services for substance using parents of children involved in Virginia's Family Treatment Drug Courts with the goal of reunification to birth parents and foster kinship care families that provide care for children of substance abusers. If awarded, one intensive case management position will be allocated to each of Virginia's three Family Treatment Drug Courts in the first year of the grant enabling them to expand their services. Over the five years of the waiver, up to 11 additional positions will be made available to additional Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, so they may develop Family Treatment Drug Courts and provide similar intensive case management services. Both the Best Practice Courts and the Court Improvement Program staff support these efforts with technical assistance and training.
    • Education and Training. Several training programs have been developed or are being planned. The Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, Department of Social Services, and Department of Health, in collaboration with the National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health at Georgetown University's Center for Child and Human Development, created a children's mental health and well-being screening curriculum for substance abuse, social service in-home health care, and other service providers. In addition, DMHMRSAS is contracting with the Mid-Atlantic Technology Transfer Center to develop a web-based, distance-learning curriculum on family-focused treatment for substance abuse treatment providers. The Commonwealth Partnership for Women and Children Affected by Substance Use is coordinating regional trainings on substance abuse and child welfare in rural areas not typically targeted for training.

    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Dependency Mediation Programs

    As discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Court Improvement Program staff is supporting the development of dependency mediation programs, particularly in Best Practice Courts.

    In May 2004, a group of Virginia-certified mediators and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judges attended training on Child Dependency Mediation at the District of Columbia Superior Court. These mediators provide services to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts in Hampton, Bedford, Campbell, Lynchburg, Amherst, and Nelson Counties. Mediations in child dependency cases began in June. While the number of cases mediated to date is not high, mediators have laid the groundwork for collaboration between the child welfare agency, agency counsel, guardians ad litem, and judges to refer appropriate matters to mediation. The infrastructure, forms, and procedures are now in place in these localities so that mediation can continue to be used in child dependency matters.
    Alternative Dispute Resolution

    Technological Advancements

    Implementation of a management information system that permits comprehensive tracking of child dependency cases remains a high priority for the Court Improvement Program and the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia. As noted in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the Office of the Executive Secretary applied for and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to enter into a cooperative agreement to operate a demonstration project under the Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts in America: Management Information Systems Project (SANCA - MIS) grant. This grant provided $200,000 for use by the Department of Judicial Information Technology (DJIT) to carry out a two-year demonstration project to 1) complete development of the new relational database for Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts; 2) design, develop, and implement programming applications to enhance the Court Automated Information System (CAIS) to provide selected items of technology enhancement as identified in the 'Automating for Permanency Report' completed by the Virginia Court Improvement Program in September 2000; 3) test this enhanced CAIS in one or two pilot courts; and 4) use the knowledge gained from the pilot courts to implement these enhancements statewide and to further the development of desired technology enhancements for child dependency cases. As of February 2005, the following progress has been made on the initial SANCA objectives:

    • Fifty percent of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts in Virginia have been converted to the DB2 Relational Database as of the end of 2004.
    • The document outlining proposed changes to coding, screens, and system edits has been approved.
    • Drafts of proposed changes to screens are complete. Newly designed screens include all data fields necessary to complete programming of the remaining Packard Performance Measure Reports the Virginia team has committed to implementing.
    • Six Packard Performance Measures' reports programmed and installed in pilot courts on February 24, 2005.
    • 'Smart' edits have been programmed and installed statewide for the DC-526/Emergency Removal Order. 'Spellcheck' has been implemented statewide for all of the abuse, neglect, and foster care forms and orders.
    • The Best Practice Courts Conference, held by the CIP in November 2004, provided an opportunity to speak with users about the reports being developed with SANCA and how these reports will support courts and local collaborative groups in improving the process by which the abuse, neglect, and foster care cases are handled.
    • The CIP Advisory Committee Meeting held in December 2004 included a presentation on SANCA. Sample test reports were handed out to members of the Committee, which includes judges from around the Commonwealth. Feedback on format and content were received at meeting.
    • Testing of the deadline date function for use by courts in scheduling abuse, neglect, and foster care cases was completed by mid-March 2005 and installation was completed statewide on April 14, 2005.
    • A SANCA Project CMS User meeting was held on February 18, 2005 with system users from around the Commonwealth. Lisa Portune, consultant for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and Virginia's SANCA Team advisor, participated as the meeting facilitator. Users provided feedback on changes to screens, routing and coding. Final modifications have been made to these system changes and are currently in development. The court analyst is currently writing the specifications for the remaining reports to be generated.

    The Office of the Executive Secretary's Department of Judicial Information Technology (DJIT) determined during the planning stages of SANCA that many system improvements developed as part of the grant would be provided to all juvenile courts in Virginia during implementation. These improvements include all enhancements to the visual basic forms program, which provides the court with the abuse, neglect, and foster care orders and forms, the enhanced scheduling and deadline date capability, and the new search capability. The performance measure reports, although accessible by all courts on the DB2 relational database, are for pilot use only at this time. DJIT has requested that non-pilot courts not submit for the newly-added SANCA reports until they are released statewide. Compliance with this request will allow resources to be focused on the training requirements for the pilot courts.

    Automated interfaces for data exchanges are currently being used by the courts with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Virginia State Police, and the Division of Motor Vehicles. DJIT and CIP are working with the Department of Social Services to implement an interface, but this endeavor is not an objective of Virginia's SANCA Project.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Information Sharing

    Evaluation of Appeals

    In an ongoing effort to expedite permanency for children in foster care, the CIP is conducting an independent study of the Circuit Court appeals process in termination of parental rights cases (TPR). Under Virginia Code § 16.1-296 D, 'when an appeal is taken in a case involving termination of parental rights brought under Code § 16.1-283, the circuit court shall hold a hearing on the merits of the case within ninety days of the perfecting of the appeal.' This project has both quantitative and qualitative components which lead to analysis of the impediments, if any, to timely management of the TPR appeal and compliance with the statutory time limitations.

    At the beginning of the project, case files were reviewed in one Circuit Court. As a result of this review, the CIP refined the data collection instrument and added an interview component. Key individuals, including judges' secretaries, clerks, agency attorneys, and guardians ad litem were identified and interviewed.

    Thereafter, nine Circuit Courts were chosen as project sites based on the number of TPR cases on their docket during calendar year 2003 and the first six months of 2004. Case file information including pertinent dates of hearings and orders, as well as other case history data, was collected from all TPR cases on appeal in the selected courts. Particular attention was given to the date that a final order was entered by the Court and to reasons for any delay in the entry of the order. The interviews focused primarily on process and procedure issues to understand how courts handled files, scheduled hearings, and finalized orders.

    Based on the data analysis and interview information, the CIP developed a written report with recommendations for policy and procedure revisions. The CIP presented the findings and recommendations of the study to a statewide conference of Circuit Court judges on May 17, 2005. Guidelines for handling termination of parental rights (TPR) cases were developed and will be distributed to Circuit Court judges, Juvenile Court judges, and attorneys who represent local departments of social services in child dependency matters.

    A presentation of the study has been scheduled for Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judges in August 2005. A memorandum for Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court clerks and Circuit Court clerks regarding procedures for expediting the TPR hearing, handling the TPR appeal file, and use of new forms will be prepared and distributed. A presentation of the findings and recommendations has been included in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court clerks' regional meetings and in the Circuit Court clerks' regional meetings, both scheduled for June 2005.

    Training will be provided at the advanced guardian ad litem seminars for those attorneys who represent children in child dependency matters. As a part of the Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan, the Virginia Department of Social Services has included a training event for local department of social services attorneys. The Court Improvement Program will work closely with the Virginia Department of Social Services in the design of the program and will include the findings in this study. A copy of the study executive summary with the recommendations and new forms has been sent to all attorneys who represent local departments of social services.

    The Court Improvement Program has revised the time line schematic titled 'Time Line and Related Forms, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, Child Abuse, Neglect and Foster Care Cases' to include the time requirements and court forms for appeals to the Circuit Court and to the Court of Appeals of Virginia. The new timeline will be distributed to Circuit Court judges, Circuit Court clerks, Juvenile Court judges and Juvenile Court clerks. In addition, the new time line schematic will be used in the CIP training events.
    Timeliness of Decisions
    Timeliness of Decisions: Appeals

    Court Rule on Oral Argument

    In September 2004, the Appellate Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia were modified to allow a guardian ad litem to request additional time for oral argument in an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia. Instead of sharing the 30-minute allotted time for argument by the parties, the guardian ad litem may request additional oral argument time on behalf of the child without apportionment among counsel.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

    Handbook for Parents and Guardians in Child Dependency Cases

    The CIP used funding from a Department of Social Services Access and Visitation grant to print additional copies of the Handbook for Parents and Guardians in Child Dependency Cases [VA-04-02]. This handbook was developed to provide a user-friendly explanation and guide to parents whose children have been placed in foster care. Recognizing that court hearings and initial meetings with social workers may be adversarial and overwhelming, the handbook provides direction to parents on the court process and the steps necessary to gain immediate visitation and timely reunification with their child. This Handbook was translated into Spanish for Latino families to enhance the collaborative development of a foster care plan for visitation and services for parents and children.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties

    Title IV-E Eligibility Review.

    Virginia was reviewed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2004 to determine whether children in foster care meet the statutory eligibility requirements for foster care maintenance payments as defined in Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Virginia was found not to be in substantial compliance as a result of this review. CIP staff consulted with the Virginia Department of Social Services in development of the Program Improvement Plan.

    The federal team reviewed 80 cases randomly selected from across Commonwealth for the time period October 1, 2003 through March 31, 2004. The allowable error rate was 5 percent, or four, of the 80 cases reviewed. The review found 14 cases determined to be ineligible for federal reimbursement. Five of the 14 error cases were the result of noncompliant court orders. The CIP staff reviewed the court orders and notified all Juvenile Court judges regarding the results of the federal review.

    On a positive note, the federal report noted that in 79 of the 80 sample cases, judicial determinations of contrary to the welfare, reasonable efforts to prevent placement [removal], and reasonable efforts to reunify were made on a timely basis. Court orders which determined that remaining in a voluntary placement was in the best interests of the child were rendered well within the 180-day time requirement. Permanency hearings were being held more frequently than once every 12 months.

    A second review of 150 Title IV-E foster care cases will be conducted in the summer of 2006. The CIP staff served on the Title IV-E Advisory Committee and is working with Virginia Department of Social Services staff on the preparation and implementation of the Program Improvement Plan. In addition, a memo outlining the court-related questions on the Title IV-E Eligibility On-Site Review Instrument and the timetable for the next review were sent to all Juvenile Court judges and agency attorneys.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Reassessment

    In August 2003, HHS indicated that Virginia's report, Safety and Permanency for Dependent Children Before the Commonwealth: Court Improvement Activities 1997-2000 [VA-00-02], documents the evaluation of activities completed by the Court Improvement Program and meets the HHS reassessment requirements.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Virginia's Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) took place in July 2003. Two of the juvenile and domestic relations district courts that participated in the CFSR site visits, Fairfax County and Bedford County, are part of the CIP Best Practice Courts Program. The CIP participated in all statewide committee meetings regarding CFSR and consulted with the child welfare agency staff regarding the criteria and benchmarks in the CFSR.

    In addition to participating in meetings regarding development and implementation of the Program Improvement Plan, the CIP and the child welfare agency presented a continuing legal education program for attorneys who represent local departments of social services in child dependency cases. Over 85 percent of the attorneys in the Commonwealth who handle these types of cases attended the seminar. An annual program for agency counsel is planned. This program meets one of the requirements in the PIP. A Relative Placement form has been developed by CIP Best Practice Courts, meeting another requirement of the PIP.

    The PIP includes strategies to improve access to substance abuse services, service availability, substance use screening procedures, substance use training for child welfare staff and foster parents, and concurrent planning training in partnership with the goals, objectives, and deliverables of the Safe Families in Recovery Project (SFRP). The Office of the Executive Secretary has incorporated the SFRP in their 2004-2006 strategic plan and the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services has incorporated it into its 2004-2010 Comprehensive State Plan.

    The CIP continues to consult with the child welfare agency regarding preparation for the second review.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Washington


    To Table of Contents

    Family Drug Courts

    Based on the Washington State Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan, the Court Improvement Project (CIP) Steering Committee provided FY 03 and FY 04 funds to develop two new Family Drug Courts. One Family Drug Court is in Benton/Franklin Judicial District and the other is in Kitsap County. Each Court will receive $50,000 for the first year, with the possibility of a smaller grant in the second year. The pilots were established in January 2005.

    • Benton-Franklin Family Dependency Treatment Court (BFFDTC). A Memorandum of Understanding for the Benton-Franklin Family Dependency Treatment Court Implementation Program was developed containing all the roles and responsibilities agreed upon by the participating agencies and their representatives. BFFDTC team members are meeting with community groups and agencies to explain the family treatment court process, enlist support and develop networks for providing a spectrum of services necessary for participants to successfully provide sober, safe, and healthy environments for their children.
    • Kitsap Family Dependency Drug Court (FDDC). Seven families are currently enrolled. One client voluntarily terminated from the program in June 2005.

    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    Dependency and Termination Equal Justice (DTEJ) Committee

    As described in the Court Improvement Project Report 2004, the Dependency and Termination Equal Justice (DTEJ) Committee issued a report detailing its recommendations [WA-03-02]. The CIP Steering Committee considered these recommendations at its March 2004 meeting and supports the recommendations. The Steering Committee chair, who also chairs the Superior Court Judges' Association Juvenile and Family Law Committee, established a subcommittee to draft court rules to implement the recommendations. The Rules have been drafted, but not yet submitted to the Rules Committee. The DTEJ Committee plans to submit the proposed rules to the Washington Supreme Court during the fall of 2005.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

    Legislation

    During the most recent legislative session, Washington passed several bills relating to dependency cases. Some of these bills included the following:

    • SHB 1058, Mental Health Treatment for Minors. Provides that parental authorization is required for inpatient treatment of a minor under the age of 13. Provides that a provider may not refuse to treat a minor solely on the basis that the minor has not consented to treatment.
    • SHB 2156, CPS/CWS Task Force. Creates a task force on child safety to review issues pertaining to health, safety, and welfare of children receiving services from child protective services and child welfare services. Preliminary report due December 31, 2005; final report due September 1, 2006.
    • ESSB 5922, Child Abuse and Neglect Definitions and Investigations. Provides that parent, guardian, or legal custodian shall be informed of any allegations of child abuse or neglect made against them. Provides that child's in-home placement or return to home shall be contingent upon parents' compliance with court orders, case plan, and substance abuse treatment. Provides that court shall give great weight to parents' substance abuse in evaluating cases of alleged neglect.
    • ESSB 5308, Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse or Neglect. Adds provision to require those in supervisory capacity with nonprofit or for-profit organizations that work with children to report reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect caused by a person under his/her supervision, i.e., an employee of the organization who is the abuser.
    • HB 1426 Services for Children of Incarcerated Parents. Provides that the Department of Corrections and Department of Social and Health Services shall create an Oversight Committee to develop a plan for services to support children of incarcerated parents. The Oversight Committee will include courts and representatives from the decision-making authority. Report to the legislature is due January 1, 2006 and plan is due by June 30, 2006.

    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation

    Judicial Benchbook

    Washington originally completed the Civil Non-Offender Benchbook and distributed it to judges, commissioners, and court administrators in 2003. It is currently being updated and will be posted on the court's website in the fall of 2005.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Guidelines, Manuals, and Benchbooks

    Reasonable Efforts Symposia

    Washington has conducted Reasonable Efforts Symposia (RES) each year, as discussed in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), in conjunction with the University of Washington School of Social Work, facilitated an RES 'Site Coordinators' meeting in November 2004. Site coordinators from seven Washington state regions were represented at the meeting, where they evaluated the previous year's symposia, discussed ways to continue efforts in each region, and coordinated local systems improvement effort with the Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan.

    During 2005, symposia programs were conducted at sites in Spokane, Richland, Mount Vernon, Silverdale, Vancouver, Ocean Shores, and Seattle. At each site, about 75 to 125 professionals participated in educational programs and worked in subgroups to develop improvement and action plans for their community
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training

    Additional Educational Programs

    Over the past year, the CIP supported other educational programs. In September 2004, the Chief Justice hosted the Court Improvement Program 5th Judicial Leadership Forum on Dependent Children. Key recommendations from the Forum included the following:

    • Judicial Education. Judges should receive specialized education in dependency issues, e.g., ASFA, ICWA, if they are going to have long-term assignments in the Juvenile Court. Judicial education needs to be supported with necessary funding. Consideration should be given to certification for judicial education in dependency best practices.
    • Judicial Rotation. A minimum two-year judicial rotation should be established, with three years being the ideal. Judges who are assigned to the dependency rotation should be engaged, activist judges who want to be on the rotation.
    • Representation for Parents. Support and institutionalize enhanced training for parents' representation. Parents' representatives need manageable caseloads.
    • Unified Family Court. Recommendations and practice findings generated by the Unified Family Court Workgroup should be implemented.
    • Dependency Workload. The dependency workload is undercounted. The court should develop better methods of tracking workloads statistically. Data definitions and management information system requirements must be developed to reflect the realities of the practice.
    • Family Drug Courts. Plans should be made to expand the Family Drug Court model throughout the state.
    • Permanency Planning Review Hearings. The court needs to distinguish between permanency planning hearings and review hearings because these hearings each have different purposes and expectations. Foster parents need to participate in permanency planning review hearings.

    The Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care, as part of their charter, will be dealing with addressing these recommendations.

    In addition, CIP grant funds supported a full-day presentation on dependency from the Judicial Leadership Curriculum in April 2005, as part of the 2005 Spring Superior Court Judges' Association Program. This interactive program is part of the full Juvenile Justice, Family Law, and Judicial Leadership Curriculum. Topics included the following: 1) overview of child abuse and neglect; 2) overview of shelter care hearings; 3) judicial responsibilities in dependency cases; 4) reasonable efforts requirements; 5) principles and mandates of ASFA; 6) domestic violence considerations in dependency proceedings; 7) judicial oversight and decision making in out-of-home placements; and 8) review of permanency planning. Evaluations of the program were overwhelmingly positive, with an overall 4.5 rating on a scale of 1 - 5.
    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Judicial Training

    Reassessment

    The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges completed the Washington Reassessment in June 2005. The key findings are in the following areas: statutory conformity with federal legislation, implementation and adherence to best practices, and timeliness of court proceedings in supporting achievement of safe, timely permanency for children. Regarding timeliness, the two key findings include the following:

    • Juvenile Courts in project sites need to develop or enhance the ability to track case progress, ASFA compliance, and case outcomes (e.g., reunification, termination, adoption), and institutionalize court performance measurement in dependency cases.
    • Juvenile Courts need to develop measurement procedures to accurately assess judicial workload in dependency cases and determine what judicial resources are needed to support best practice.

    The CIP Steering Committee will review the major findings and recommendations, and prioritize future initiatives based on them.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Washington participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in November 2003. Some court-related issues identified in the final report as potential barriers to achieving permanency in a timely manner include:

    • Overburdened court dockets;
    • A frequent practice of granting continuances for court hearings; and
    • Insufficient legal representation for parents and the child welfare agency. The report also stated: 'However, stakeholders and others interviewed during the on-site review expressed the opinion that recent State efforts to improve legal representation and to increase the number of judges who are more knowledgeable about child welfare issues have the potential to positively impact permanency for children.'

    The Court Improvement Project Steering Committee members participated in the workgroups that developed the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). The CIP Director and the PIP Coordinator meet monthly to discuss progress on achieving PIP objectives. The courts have a role in the implementation of the PIP and the CIP is responsible for coordination of that role. This role involves issues regarding notice to and opportunity for foster parents to be heard in court; appropriate goals for permanency plan; concurrent planning and practice; obtaining tribal affiliation at shelter care hearings; oversight of activities in achieving permanency goals; compelling reasons why TPR petitions are not filed; and continuances after TPR.
    Child and Family Services Review




    West Virginia


    To Table of Contents

    http://www.wvjanis.com

    Court Improvement Website/Juvenile Abuse and Neglect Information System (JANIS)

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the West Virginia Court Improvement Project (CIP) developed a website, www.wvjanis.com, which mainly serves as a download/resource site for technology projects such as the benchbook and motions/orders software.

    A new release of the Juvenile Abuse and Neglect Information System (JANIS) software is now being tested, and should be ready for distribution to the courts and other users during the fall of 2005. The new version incorporates statutory changes in abuse and neglect law passed in the 2004 and 2005 legislative sessions. Additionally, several user-suggested features and optional settings have been added to the new release in order to accommodate local variations or preferences in court orders.

    Judges are still submitting quarterly case status reports [WV-04-01] on all pending abuse and neglect cases in paper format. An electronic-reporting format and system has been designed to speed up data input. An Access database has also been created to store the data and to produce several standardized reports based upon the current information on every case pending in the State. The database will be maintained on a Supreme Court server. Work on the Reassessment and budget limitations have delayed full implementation of the electronic reporting system. Once funding is available for establishing a web link to a secure server and a procedure is developed to maintain confidentiality of case-related information, individual judges and the West Virginia Supreme Court will be able to generate up-to-date status reports on pending (and recently closed) abuse and neglect cases. Once operational on the state Supreme Court server, it will operate as a case tracking system. It is anticipated that it will be operational in January 2006.

    In addition, the West Virginia Supreme Court is in the process of developing a statewide Uniform Judicial Application (UJA) for all types of civil (including abuse and neglect) and criminal cases. The UJA development has been delayed by recent budgetary
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection
    Technology: Internet Development
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders

    Data from Court Improvement Project Quarterly Reporting Forms

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the CIP developed and revised the West Virginia Abuse and Neglect Status Reporting Form, available at www.wvjanis.com. The revised form provides statistics on timeliness from each court. In July 2003, all circuit judges in the state began using and submitting the revised quarterly report forms. Although the scope and quality of the data will provide more meaningful reports, no new reports have been generated to date. There is a large volume of data collected every quarter, and most of it must still be entered from the paper forms. Since the CIP has incorporated an electronic version of the reporting form into JANIS, some of the required information is automatically inserted onto the reporting form from the case information stored in JANIS. The user may save the data in the system and simply update the reporting form each quarter.

    All judges in the state now have access to the Supreme Court's statewide network. The next step is to enable judges or their staff to electronically submit the completed reports. The state agency handling statistical input and reports of the abuse and neglect data is working with the Supreme Court networking staff to complete the final step for electronic submission of the data through a web-based Access database. Additionally, this system will automatically generate some standardized reports from the database. This ability to generate "live" reports from current data will allow judges to review their own performance, and permit the Supreme Court to obtain current status reports for all courts on a current basis.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection

    Youth Services Committee

    The CIP Board formed another new committee to draft proposed rules relating to youth placed in foster care during the course of juvenile delinquency proceedings. The Youth Services Committee is drafting rules to better achieve child well being and permanency in these juvenile delinquency cases, building upon the positive outcomes brought about from the adoption of the CIP-Proposed Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings. It is anticipated that the Youth Services Committee will submit a final set of proposed juvenile rules to the CIP Board by the end of 2005. Once approved by the Board, these rules will be presented to the Supreme Court for consideration and adoption.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules

    Reassessment

    As reported in the Court Improvement Progress Report 2004, the CIP contracted with the West Virginia University Survey Research Center, the organization that assisted with the initial assessment. It was necessary for the CIP to postpone other projects to have sufficient funding for the Reassessment. The final Reassessment report has been submitted to the federal government.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    West Virginia participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in May 2002. Members of the CIP Committee participated by working with stakeholders in the legal and judicial fields, and some CIP staff members were interviewed.

    West Virginia developed a Program Improvement Plan (PIP), which was submitted in January 2003. CIP Committee members served on the PIP Steering Committee and various PIP subcommittees. The PIP strengthened the partnership between the CIP and the child welfare agency. Several child welfare staff members sit on the CIP Board. The CIP maintained an active role in the court-related PIP objectives, particularly in the areas of training and legislation. The DHHR contracted with CIP staff to provide regional trainings to caseworkers, judges, prosecutors, and attorneys regarding the effective use of the JANIS software to prepare orders. These trainings (approximately 15-20 sessions around the state) were recently completed. Although there is no data yet, based upon feedback from around the state, these trainings have increased the quality and timeliness of orders.

    West Virginia officially ended the first round of the PIP on June 9, 2005. Preparation is beginning for the next round of reviews. The child welfare agency and the Administration for Children and Families staff met on June 22, 2005. Other meetings are being arranged to prepare and plan for the next round of reviews.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Wisconsin


    To Table of Contents

    http://wicourts.gov/about/organization/programs/ccip.htm#2

    Reassessment Results

    In February 2004, the Wisconsin Children's Court Improvement Program (CCIP) selected Hornby Zeller Associates to complete its reassessment. Hornby Zeller Associates issued a final report, Reassessment of State Court Performance in Children in Need of Protection or Services Cases [WI-05-01], in January 2005.

    The reassessment addressed three general issues:

    • To what extent do court processes contribute to or detract from the achievement of safety, permanency, and well being for children?
    • To what extent do the courts meet state and federal mandates for timely proceedings?
    • To what extent do court processes conform to professional standards of judicial practice?

    Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at i. Hornby Zeller Associates used the following data collection methods: 1) comparison of the Wisconsin Children's Code to federal and professional practice standards; 2) observation of court proceedings in 13 counties; 3) interviews of over 130 stakeholders, including judges, attorneys, parents, court staff, and child welfare agency staff; 4) manual case file review of 800 randomly selected cases; and 5) analysis of all Child in Need of Protection or Service (CHIPS) cases data in the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) for the periods before and after the 2002 state law amendments were enacted. The following instruments were used in the reassessment and are available for review: Adoption Detail Form [WI-04-01]; CHIPS Detail Form [WI-04-02]; Face Sheet Form [WI-04-03]; TPR Detail Form [WI-04-04]; Court Observation Form [WI-04-05]; and Interview Guide [WI-04-06].

    Some general findings from the reassessment are summarized below:

    • Wisconsin Children's Code: The Code is consistent with federal statutory requirements and generally consistent with the Resource Guidelines.
    • CHIPS Processes and Compliance with State Provisions: Only 41 percent (1,881 of 4,604) of cases reviewed had the necessary data elements to measure the various intervals. "Timeliness of CHIPS hearings declines as cases progress through the adjudication process." Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at iii. Specific results for various hearing types are contained in the Reassessment Report.
    • Compliance with Federal Child Welfare Laws: Generally, between 2001 and 2003, there was "a discernible and sometimes substantial improvement in compliance." Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at iv. Results are provided for contrary to the welfare determinations, reasonable efforts determinations, permanency planning hearings, and termination of parental rights. Although the court personnel stated that CHIPS cases have top priority due to ASFA and Title IV-E requirements, "there was no consensus on the best practices to facilitate compliance with those requirements." Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at v. Furthermore, those interviewed generally stated that, "while the requirements may or may not improve the timeliness of decisions, they do not add substantive meaning to the proceedings or improve the quality of decisions." Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at v.
    • Court Organization and Resources: Generally, courts do not consistently follow the policy of one judge for the life of the case. Because many judges give priority to juvenile hearings over other matters and most jurisdictions do not have dedicated juvenile or family courts, it was difficult to assess the adequacy of the number of judges in the system. Court resources appeared to be adequate and most stakeholders believed they had sufficient training to understand the requirements of ASFA and Title IV-E.
    • Consolidated Court Automation Programs: The reassessment found that the CCAP functioned adequately as a case management system, but did not "function well in producing management information about court compliance with child welfare rules or about the outcomes achieved for children and families." Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at viii.

    Overall, Hornby Zeller Associates concluded that significant improvements had been made since the 1997 initial assessment and the 2002 state legislative reforms. The Reassessment Report noted that there was considerable variation around the state for meeting timelines mandated by state law. The following recommendations were given to build on the "improvements already made by the Wisconsin Children's Court Improvement Program":

    • Local courts should provide additional meeting space for parties in courts in smaller counties.
    • Local courts should assure that court schedules or waiting room configurations do not permit the mingling of children and youth with adults waiting for trial.
    • Local courts should assure to the extent possible that a single judge hears a case in its entirety.
    • The Director of State Courts Office should create a mechanism for providing county court personnel with periodic, e.g., monthly, extracts of CCAP information from which the local courts could generate their own reports.
    • The Director of State Courts Office should give consideration to standardizing the codes in the system for CHIPS cases, so that the court history of each case can be determined unambiguously from coded fields alone.
    • The Director of State Courts Office should create codes specifically for child welfare cases which permit identification of the following events: removal of the child from the home, physical discharge of the child from out of home placement, reason for the physical discharge from out of home placement, termination of court jurisdiction and return of the same child to the court system.
    • In conjunction with the reporting recommendations related to CCAP, the state courts should establish standard reports on the timeliness of critical events. (Achievement of this goal will not be possible without some standardization of terminology for specific court events.) At a minimum, the results of the reports should be shared with court administrators. To create more pressure on the courts to improve their results, the reports could be published on a statewide basis.
    • The Director of State Courts Office should undertake an examination of the extent to which the lack of timeliness for certain hearings is a function of available judicial resources or other reasons.
    • The Director of State Courts Office should address whether there is a lack of timely notices in cases relating to Native American children.
    • The Director of State Courts Office should work with local courts to address ways to improve the quality and availability of legal counsel to represent parents and children.
    • The Wisconsin Judicial College should include information for all new judges on child welfare proceedings.

    Reassessment Report, Executive Summary at x - xi.

    The CCIP has created a committee to review all activity and event codes in CCAP to standardize practice. The CCIP will conduct additional data collection on certain issues, such as timeliness of hearings and timely notice under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Children's Court Initiative

    The Children's Court Improvement Program is developing and implementing the Children's Court Initiative (CCI), based on the Minnesota Children's Justice Initiative and the Pew Charitable Trust Foster Care Report. The CCI is being developed with the assistance of the Wisconsin Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) quality assurance initiative to respond to issues identified in the Child and Family Services Review.

    As noted on the CCIP website, http://wicourts.gov/about/organization/programs/ccip.htm#2, "the mission of the Children's Court Initiative (CCI) is to assist the court system and those providing services to it in achieving safety, permanency, due process, and timeliness outcomes for children and families in child welfare proceedings." Furthermore, the "achievement of the performance measures will be assessed and tracked through utilization of court file reviews, court observation, surveys, interviews and data analysis." An Advisory Committee was established to guide the implementation of the CCI and most of the CCIP resources during the upcoming year will be dedicated it.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Pilot Projects and Model Courts

    Confidentiality Project

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Projects, the Wisconsin Court Improvement Program initiated the Confidentiality Project in collaboration with the Department of Justice, Children's Justice Act Grant Program. The objectives of the Confidentiality Project were to analyze and clarify confidentiality provisions in Wisconsin statutes, regulations, and practices to improve interagency collaboration when working with children and families in the system. The Confidential Advisory Board (CAB), consisting of various stakeholders, was appointed to develop goals and oversee implementation. Two CAB work groups, the Statutory Analysis Work Group and the Current Practice Issues Work Group, developed reports and made numerous recommendations. These recommendations include, among other things, producing two written resources to improve professional and consumer understanding of confidentiality laws, encouraging memoranda of understanding among agencies regarding information exchange, and pursuing legislation to combine all existing provisions dealing with confidentiality into one subsection of the Children's Code. The two written resources, a handbook for child welfare professionals and a pamphlet for parents, are in draft form. The CAB reviewed the draft materials during the spring of 2005 and recommended that a question and answer section be added. This piece will take additional time to develop and finalize.

    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parties
    Community Collaboration

    Technology

    Wisconsin has a statewide, automated case management system, the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP). Data is entered at the county level, leading to many issues about data entry consistency. Some shortcomings of the CCAP are outlined in Reassessment Results above. The CCI/CCAP Codes Subcommittee is currently addressing code usage. The work of the Subcommittee should be complete by September 2005, training will be offered to juvenile clerks at their annual conference in October 2005, and system changes to CCAP are targeted for implementation in January 2006.

    Wisconsin is currently drafting its performance measures, which will be adapted from the Packard performance measures and the Minnesota Children's Justice Initiative standards. An advisory board began reviewing these measures in April 2005. Pilots will be conducted in June and September 2005, with a goal of formally implementing the measures in November 2005.
    Technology
    Technology: Data Collection

    Child and Family Services Review

    In August 2003, the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) was conducted in Wisconsin. The Court Improvement Program was involved in some general planning meetings related to the CFSR. Because the CIP Director's position was vacant during much of the planning, the CIP Director was not a case reviewer and was not onsite. A Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge was a case reviewer in a neighboring county. The CIP Director, the Director of State Courts, a Circuit Court Judge, and a District Court Administrator were interviewed.

    The CFSR final report was issued in February 2004. The CIP Director was a member of a statewide, multidisciplinary Core Team that set priorities for the Program Improvement Plan (PIP). These duties included attendance at regular, statewide meetings to respond to the CFSR exit interview comments and co-chairing a subcommittee to examine the case review systemic factor elements that were rated as weaknesses. The CIP Director was involved in preliminary negotiations, but the wording and meaning was changed on some items without final approval by the court system.

    The Director of State Courts Office is listed as a partner in the following: 1) identifying policies that negatively impact the involvement of noncustodial parents and other relatives; 2) providing targeted training about the administrative rule on permanency planning and reasonable efforts; 3) continuing training on ASFA and concurrent planning; 4) developing a report from the CCAP to monitor TPR-related issues; and 5) establishing a process for judges to seek input from foster parents/custodians in court hearings. A training curriculum for judges, attorneys, agency staff, and administrative review panel members is being developed with assistance from a consultant affiliated with the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues. A five-hour judicial training will be piloted in August 2005 and the finalized curriculum will be implemented in the spring of 2006 at district meetings.

    The Wisconsin PIP was approved in November 2004 and implementation is underway. The secondary Title IV-E review is scheduled for May 2005. The CIP is involved in training state reviewers on the Title IV-E review instrument and obtaining copies of existing court documents that are missing from the agency file.
    Child and Family Services Review




    Wyoming


    To Table of Contents

    http://www.courts.state.wy.us/CIP/CIPpage.htm

    Family Treatment Court Pilot Project

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, the Director of the child welfare agency spearheaded an effort to start a Family Treatment Court pilot project. The Children's Justice Project (CJP) participated in discussions regarding the formation of the pilot. As of February 2004, a pilot was operating in Big Horn County. Although the CJP did not provide funds for this pilot, it is providing technical support and training as needed. All open juvenile cases can participate in the Family Treatment Court. The court appoints a treatment team to meet with the family frequently. The court will be evaluated at a later date.

    Over the past year, the CJP provided funds to a second pilot location in Jackson at the Teton Family Court. The pilot is in the initial planning stages. Thus far, the pilot has developed a policies and procedures manual; created necessary forms, releases, and other program materials; applied for a federal grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and applied for a state grant through the Substance Abuse Division. The Substance Abuse Division awarded the pilot additional grant money and the Treatment Court will be operational in August 2005.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Other Initiatives

    CASA Programs

    The Children's Justice Project awarded funds to Wyoming's five CASA programs. In addition, the CJP provided funds to establish a statewide CASA program.
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: CASA Programs

    Neglect Hearing Checklists/Model Court Orders

    The Children's Justice Project developed neglect hearing checklists that include state and federal law and best practices for each stage of neglect proceedings. The checklists and proposed orders complement Wyoming's Judicial Benchbook on Wyoming Child Welfare Law. The checklists, which cover the shelter care/initial hearing, adjudication, disposition, six-month review, and permanency hearing, are available in a short version and a long version. The checklists can be found on the CJP website at www.courts.state.wy.us/CIP/CIPpage.htm.

    The CJP is developing model court orders, which are scheduled to be complete by September 1, 2005. The Juvenile Court judges were provided a draft of the orders in May 2005 and the orders were edited based on the comments provided. The revised orders will be sent to the prosecutors and Department of Family Services for comment.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Forms and Orders

    Legislation

    Wyoming passed several bills pertaining to child welfare, including the following:

    • SF 39. The bill made numerous amendments to child protection provisions and the Juvenile Act. The bill, among other things, created an interagency children's collaborative to review cases in which a child is taken into state custody, amended provisions relating to multidisciplinary teams and child protection teams, provided access to juvenile records as specified, amended standards of proof, and required notice as specified.
    • HB 237. This bill modified review hearing dates and set forth requirements for permanency review hearings.
    • HB 314. This provision authorized a program to reimburse GALs, based on their demonstration of compliance with recently enacted GAL standards. The GAL standards are contained in Rule 106 [WY-04-01] and became effective July 1, 2005. The standards address the role of an attorney guardian ad litem, general responsibilities of a guardian ad litem, qualifications and caseloads, training requirements, payment, and the selection process.

    A copy of each bill can be viewed at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/.
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: State Legislation
    Legislation, Court Rules, Forms, and Orders: Court Rules
    Legal Representation of Parties
    Legal Representation of Parties: Appointing and Regulating Attorneys

    Parent Handbook

    The Children's Justice Project developed a handbook for parents explaining the child welfare court process and parental rights entitled Wyoming Juvenile Courts: Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings [WY-04-02]. It is available on the Children's Justice Project website and parents receive hard copies of the handbook early in the court process. The handbook covers the following topic areas: 1) what happens after the child is removed; 2) who will be involved in the case; 3) the Juvenile Court process, including a description of the various hearings; 4) rights and responsibilities; 5) visitation; 6) worksheets to record details of visits, contacts, and important names and addresses; and 7) definitions of common terms used in Juvenile Court.
    Treatment of Parties
    Treatment of Parties: Information to Parents

    Automated Case Tracking System

    As reported in prior Court Improvement Progress Reports, with the input of the Supreme Court Technology Task Force and the Children's Justice Project, the Supreme Court is looking to purchase a case tracking system for statewide use. A working committee, which included CJP staff, a representative of the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues, and a representative of the National Resource Center for Information Technology in Child Welfare, considered the elements needed to customize the system for child welfare cases.

    Because Wyoming district courts have different systems and technology in the state Supreme Court is fairly new, the implementation of the system has been slow. The JSI Full Court System is being implemented. The vendor has modified a child welfare module based on those being used by Kansas and Idaho. The module was demonstrated in July 2005. Over the next year, the CJP will develop a plan to pilot the child welfare module in a Juvenile Court.
    Technology
    Technology: Case Tracking and Management Systems
    Technology: Internet Development

    Permanency Barriers Project

    Facilitated by the American Bar Association's (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, Wyoming is instituting a Permanency Barriers Project in Natrona County. Most recently, the Project completed data collection and formed a committee of key stakeholders. Training was conducted in June 2005. Training topics included ASFA and Title IV-E requirements, the impact of domestic violence on children, special needs adoption, post adoption services, substance abuse, adolescent issues and barriers to permanency for youth of color, keeping children out of the system, legal ethics, and family partnership conferencing. A panel of youth formerly in foster care also discussed their experience in the system.
    Hearing Quality and Depth
    Hearing Quality and Depth: Model Courts and Pilot Projects

    Training

    The Wyoming CJP sponsored the following trainings during the past year:

    • Video training was provided on the educational needs of foster care children in August 2004 with the Laramie County CASA Program. The training was conducted by representatives of the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues (Resource Center), Casey Family Programs, and the Attorney General's Office.
    • Video training was offered on advocating for older teens in the child welfare system in September 2004. The training was conducted by representatives of the Resource Center and the Casey Family Program.
    • Attorney training was provided at the annual state bar convention in September 2004 entitled Frontloading the Court Process: What GALs and Parents' Attorneys Can Do. The training was conducted by a model court judge. The speaker also presented to the Juvenile Court judges as well.
    • GAL training was offered in June 2005 addressing the Wyoming GAL Program, domestic violence, responsibilities of GALs, and medical and legal aspects of child maltreatment. Speakers included two professors from the University of Wyoming Law School, a representative from the Department of Family Services, a professor from the Kempe Children's Center, and the Court Administrator of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

    Training and Education
    Training and Education: Judicial Training
    Training and Education: Multidisciplinary Training
    Training and Education: Attorney/GAL Programs

    Reassessment

    Wyoming obtained an extension for its reassessment until 2006. The CJP has contracted with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), which will begin the reassessment in August 2005. The NCSC will assess five counties. The reassessment will be completed by June 30, 2006.

    In January and February 2005, the Children's Justice Project conducted a 'mini-reassessment' of the Carbon County Model Court Program. The information obtained through the 'mini-reassessment' will be included in the upcoming reassessment.
    Evaluation
    Evaluation: General

    Child and Family Services Review

    Wyoming participated in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) in July 2002. The CJP Council participated in stakeholder interviews and the CJP Coordinator participated as a reviewer. The CJP Coordinator served on the Oversight Team in the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) development process. Judges and attorneys also participated on various committees to address any relevant legal issues. The Children's Justice Project will continue to be active as the PIP is implemented, particularly in the area of training and checklist/model court order development.
    Child and Family Services Review